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Stanford Report, May 31, 2000

Sun shines on sixth annual Springfest


A picnic lunch with co-workers -- more than 2,000 of them -- was the highlight at Stanford's sixth annual celebration of the diversity of university staff.

The Multicultural Springfest 2000 delivered on promises of entertainment, commemorative T-shirts, exhibits and food for all.

The nimble-footed joined Elizabeth Wright on stage for line dancing lessons. Saundramal Onabajo, a purchasing assistant with the Stanford Center for Professional Development and a performer with DKTS Carnaval Dancers, defied gravity with her elaborate ostrich-feather headdress.

When the Urbano sisters launched their medley of Latin classics, a quintet of Spanish-speaking labor-shop workers from Facilities Operations howled with delight. As they stretched out on a shady expanse of lawn, Armando Barbosa, José Perez and their colleagues looked over the 50 tables and 450 chairs they set up for the event.

They pronounced the program, the menu -- everything -- "muy bien."

In welcoming remarks, Provost and President-Designate John Hennessy praised Stanford staff for loyalty and devotion to the university.

"They're not just involved in an institution -- they're committed," he said. Hennessy then added, "We want this to be a great place to work."

And the Springfest is the gathering that can bring staff together and forge a spirit of unity, Sally Dickson, director of campus relations with the Office for Multicultural Development, said from the stage. Dickson announced recently that she is leaving Stanford for Duke University.

"And I ask you to do that today and for all the years to come."

Even before activities officially kicked off at 11 a.m., participants were breezing through the stations to pick up raffle tickets and heading over to serving tables. There were no long lines as in years past. This time, meat was prepared on site on five barbecue grills, and servers were on hand to dish out portions and move the lines.

"This is more food than we had last year," declared Michael T. Brinkmann, executive chef of Bon Appetit, as staff began arriving. He ran down the numbers: 2,200 chicken breast pieces; 1,800 hamburger patties (at three per pound, they offered a bigger bite than the ubiquitous quarter-pounders); 3,400 hamburger buns; 1,800 corn cobs; 850 pounds of fruit salad; 170 pounds of pasta salad; 2,400 cookies, lemon squares and brownies; 600 vegetarian patties; and 2,800 beverages.

"I guarantee you we won't run out of food," Brinkmann promised. His declaration withstood the test of the time, since staff members arriving minutes before the program folded at 1:30 p.m. still were served. And even though the beverage supply diminished because "people were grabbing two or three," Edward Vicedo, Bon Appetit's director of catering, said there was leftover food.

About a dozen staff artists displayed crafts such as wine-dyed scarves, paintings and beadwork.

Some staffers lamented the absence of ethnic food over picnic fare, but preparation and menu selections are a consideration with large groups.

In the midst of the mirth, a moment of silence was observed for Sonia and Mary Reyes, two Stanford employees killed in an automobile accident May 4.

At the volunteer table, where Sonia was a fixture at past Springfests, a memorial exhibit was set up in her honor.

The Springfest, sponsored by the Office for Multicultural Development and Human Resources Services, in its inaugural year drew about 500 participants.

"The increasing success of the Springfest each year is due to the volunteer support of dozens of staff members," says Robin Higashi, a co-coordinator of the event. Those interested in helping out next year can contact the Office for Multicultural Development at 723-3484. SR