TREE WEEK HAPPENED EARLIER THIS MONTH, where Sarah Young (‘17), Tommy Meaney (’17), Joe Getsy (’15) and Noah Toyonaga (’17) orchestrated some of the most ridiculous stunts imaginable in hopes of impressing last year’s Tree, Will Funk. Contestants were said to have eaten a dead rat, created a vomit painting, drank their own urine, popped out of a burrito, and of course, created their own geotage-- in true Stanford fashion. Every year contestants rally, vying for the coveted role of Tree, in order to prove that they’re wildly committed, insanely fearless, and a little crazy. One thing is for sure, this year, the competition heated up.
We sat down with the newly appointed Tree, Sarah Young, and past Tree, Will Funk, to learn a little bit more about the process, and of course, to get some dirty details.
Young, self-titled Treeyonce, is a prospective Physchology Major and Sophomore. She succeeded in her quest to become Tree, as she was rolled out by Funk and the band earlier this month. She’ll be serving as the new Tree for the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB).
What is the role of the tree?
FUNK: “The Tree is the mascot of the band, not the University. The University just kind of adopted the Tree, because it got so big for the band...the Tree is probably the mascot that takes itself the least seriously in the entire country.”
Funk believes that with the power of Stanford Tree comes great responsibility. Young will be expected to attend events, rallies, games and functions. However, it won’t come without a shenanigan or two. Every year, the new Tree takes on a different spirit, expected to bring his or her own ideas, quirks and character along for the ride, as they grow into their identity as the Tree.
How do you hope to fill the role of tree?
YOUNG: “It’s going to be interesting trying to balance between being on a brochure that kids get and that weird kid that’s derpin’ around in a tree costume with the band.”
Although its only been a week since young was deemed Tree, she knows that her predecessors, Will Funk and Calvin Studebaker were quite something. They struck a balance, managing to charm the entirety of crowds, with their personalities, albeit dancing around in a tree costume, as well as being relatable and down to earth. Seeing as crowds at Stanford are pretty diverse, and so too is the alumni community, addressing this balance as Tree, can often be a difficult task, but Young has a great mentor in Funk.
WHAT WAS THE CRAZIEST STUNT YOU DID TO GET TREE?
YOUNG: “I let Will bartend for me with a bunch of different ingredients, like lemon juice, maple syrup, tabasco, chilli powder, a blended slice of pizza, milk, and some pee that I collected from my body earlier that morning. It didn’t taste so great -it was really chunky and spicy.”
For Young, not even the prospect of drinking her own urine could taint her enthusiasm for becoming the next Tree. As a member of Band, she had seen firsthand what being Tree represented and knew it was something she wanted to try. Young spent several weeks planning her Tree Week stunts. She reached out to friends and family for ideas, and it was actually Young’s mother who came up with the idea for her to drink her own urine. Clearly, she had the full support of her friends and family.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE OTHER THINGS THAT THE CANDIDATES FOR TREE DID?
FUNK: “Tommy Meany did a puke painting, in which he chugged a bunch of milk with food coloring in it and vomited it up onto a canvas to make art. Noah Toyonaga, came to one of my classes and gave a startup pitch that transitioned into him performing a dollie dance to my favorite songs, She’s Not There. And the final candidate, Joe Getsy, did something called a ‘lift a friend walk,’ in which he walked from FroSoCo to Mirielees, carrying a tree on his back, to convey the idea of supporting friends during difficult times. It wasn’t his most wild stunt, but it was very thought out and amazing.”
Funk, the man that all the candidates were aiming to impress, was very happy with the way things turned out. He thought that the variety of stunts this year was incredible and he was grateful to have four candidates that could keep the absurdity of Tree Week alive. In years past, Funk had seen Tree Week become more mild than it was established to be and he was delighted to see his candidates amp it back up. The stunts, the energy and the costumes were on point this year.
WHAT DID YOU SEE IN YOUNG? HOW DID YOU KNOW SHE WAS THE CHOSEN ONE?
YOUNG: "Oh gosh, I don’t even know if I know the answer to this one."
FUNK: “For Sarah, it was the amount of thought she put into everything. She’s put so much effort into thinking about it, and that was a huge consideration..not necessarily in planning, but conceptualizing what it means to be Tree..she’s so amazing, and so fun, and she can laugh off anything that comes her way. You have to deal with a lot being Tree..and that’s a really good way to deal with it.”
Funk has full faith in the fact that Young with be able to embody the goofyness that is Tree, the ridiculousness that is Tree, and of course, brighten people’s day, both inside and outside of her costume. This can sometimes be a difficult task, as there’s constantly criticism of the choices one makes as Tree, so Funk had a little advice of his own for Young.
IS THERE A PEARL OF WISDOM YOU CAN PASS ONTO YOUNG?
FUNK: “Don’t care about anyone’s expectations for you..what I think does not matter whatsoever throughout this whole next year.”
YOUNG: “Yeah, no expectations from this point on. I’m trying to figure it out, go with the flow.. kinda like baptism by fire, I guess...”
FUNK: “You do you, take control, it’s in your court.”
Although its been just over a week, Funk and Studebaker have taken Young under their wings, and have walked her through the process of being Tree, what to expect and how to approach a variety of situations, on and off the field, in and out of costume. It’s going to be key for Young to truly go in with no expectations, because being Tree is different every year, with its own set of challenges, and rewards.
What’s your spirit tree?
YOUNG: “Cherry blossoms and Willow Trees”
Young will be designing her Tree costume over the summer, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it included a few characteristic traits of her Spirit Tree. Perhaps braiding in some blossoms to the hair, or adding a few willow branches, whatever it is, Funk and Young alluded to the fact that people can expect a totally new image next year, so stay tuned.
What is your tree motto?
FUNK: You do you. Imma do tree.
YOUNG: Young, wild and tree.
Although Funk’s motto is rather punny, he believes it truly conveys his approach to being the tree. He strived to find balance between himself and the image he conceptualized for the tree. With this approach, he eventually found a middle ground in which his embodiment of the tree felt authentic and true to himself. Young’s motto is still in the works, as tree year has just begun, but she automatically latched onto the “Young, wild and tree” phrase when her RA mentioned it to her last year. It juxtaposes her identity with that of the tree, setting the stage for her image as tree to grow and change as she sees fit.
By: Shelby Mynhier and Ameeqa Ali