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Keeping Calm and Carrying On: College Relay for Life Edition

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I was unsure if a hurricane or tsunami was engulfing the stage, but either way, the natural disaster at hand was disrupting my drag show.

Fraternity boys wearing sequined miniskirts, make-up and body glitter brushed away the bangs of their wigs as the light rain became heavy. Some macho men wore heels several sizes too small and many wore feather boas. Tiaras were in abundance, shining under the bright stadium lights in the dark sky. Is that a tutu? Cute purse...

This storm was raining on my purple parade. As my Relay For Life Executive Committee staff shirt became uncomfortably damp, I summoned my team -- the Entertainment committee.

My group gathered, while I bit into a Kashi snack bar and watched the track develop large puddles. It was 3:30 a.m. when my 10 comrades huddled beside me under a tarp tent. Cher's song "Believe" vibrated from the sound system, amateur drag queens swirling in circles just yards away. I believe in life after... long bouts of down pouring rain.

I convinced myself the show would go on.

"The rain is only going to get worse," yelled an Executive Board member from afar. "We may have to clear the field." All 2,000 participants and additional visitors? Yikes.

Our 18-hour event was anything but over. We had several games, musical acts and other entertainment groups scheduled to perform. I was really looking forward to 6:00 a.m. yoga...

My Entertainment co-chair crowned a queen/king/boy-turned-girl/"Look Good, Feel Better" pageant winner and joined the emergency powwow. What to do?

After taking a deep breath, we collectively brainstormed ideas. Rain, wind and anything less than flying cattle (you know, like that scene from the 1996 movie Twister), we were going to figure it out. Because when you are low on sleep, have dedicated more than 10 months to an event and could really use a) coffee, b) energy sheets and/or c) a hairbrush (yes, it was that bad); you do not give up. Instead, you fight through the storm. Literally.

Minutes later, we built a tent above the stage (a hideous one), but it worked well for a few hours, keeping jam bands' instruments dry. Next up: a student fashion show with models walking a runway. Does anyone have an umbrella for models to borrow?

For competitive teams, we offered five points per umbrella. Suddenly, we had 50 for the long legged ladies to walk under. Rihanna, you would have been proud.

Soon after, like a rollercoaster that suddenly halted, the event was over but not completed. And similar to the sensation many feel once stepping off a theme park ride, I wanted to vomit (no worries, I didn't. Had I, the Track & Field staff would have killed me, or claimed ownership of my first child).

We were instructed to evacuate the field as soon as possible, and people did -- leaving their tents, stations and handbags, (snacks, keys and Brita jugs) behind. How would they get home safely? Drink filtered water? My confusion (and longing for a pillow) was ever exhausting. My stomach growled at me as my eyes glanced over prepackaged fruit chews and raisins. Why am I hungry? It's 4:15 a.m.!

My adrenaline was high, as was my disappointment. We completed two-thirds of the event and fixed major malfunctions as they popped up. Did I mention the original stage was not delivered, and the DJ we booked had the wrong date? We had built a makeshift stage and hired a DJ minutes before opening ceremonies. We were on a roll.

Once the storm settled, and I had shut my eyes for a few minutes (around 6:00 a.m.), the executive team and their respective committees commenced event site cleanup.

The field was unpopulated, instead filled with windblown tents, a deserted stage and trash -- everywhere. The sun was starting to rise; as I picked up the debris of once glittering posters and formerly lit luminaria bags.

A week of class later (following hibernation), the Relay For Life wrap party had arrived.

"Great show," said a husky, built guy with scruffy facial hair. He was a former drag contestant (though I did not recognize him at first glance). "Next year, I'm going to win the pageant -- I already know what I'm going to wear!" Thanks for sharing! And good luck to you.

"Thanks," I said, smirking. Were any of the participants aware of our technical issues?

My peer teammates informed me that although they themselves were aware, no one else knew about the stage, the DJ, and ultimately, the war of weather vs. sound equipment/event entertainment.

With that, I felt a sense of relief and confidence, like overcoming a feared, fast, heavily looping and insanely intimidating rollercoaster. Oh that? It was nothing. I could totally do it again.