By James Farnsworth, MN

As old as the assembly itself are its traditions, although new traditions are quickly taking shape. Besides drinking Cheerwine and wearing seersucker print fabric on Tuesday, each delegation participates in its own unique traditions.
The ‘Family of Alabama’ Delegation Leader Bea Tisher explained that “for all of us, the family aspect is what makes CONA home for us.”

In a hallway on the second floor of the Blue Ridge Center are the ‘warm and fuzzy’ boxes of the Alabama delegation. Tisher said warm and fuzzy boxes are decorated boxes where the Alabama delegates drop compliments or words of encouragement into the boxes of their fellow delegates.

The warm and fuzzy boxes let “[delegates] know what they mean to our family,” said Tisher.

Ellie Smith’s New Jersey delegation creates bead bracelets which include delegates’ names and an adjective that describes their delegation for that year. Smith said those descriptive words may include ‘courage’ or ‘family.’
“To us, they represent the unity of our delegation,” said Smith. “We are all connected by these bracelets.”
For Tyler Tran, delegation leader from Missouri, “Traditions are really important to us,” he said. “Traditions are what tie us together.”

In Missouri besides ‘initiating’ new CONA delegates with Cheerwine on the steps of Eureka Hall, Tran added that a chant, which brings Missouri delegates together is ‘MO money, MO problems, MO YIG.’

Washington State delegation leader Denise Chen helps to tie her delegates together at the end of each day with a tradition called the Pit and Peak. Chen said the pit and peak stands for the pros and cons and is a way for delegates to share their new CONA experiences.

“[At CONA] participating in so many traditions unites us,” said Chen.

Gideon Epstein, a second year delegate from Maryland said that his delegation embodies the Blue Ridge Spirit. His delegation encourages delegates to talk to as many people as they can.

One thing that sets his delegation apart are the crab shirts that they’ve had for the past few years, Epstein added.

Scott Cunningham, South Carolina delegation’s advisor who has been coming to CONA for 18 years, said the trading and creating of shirts and pins is one of the oldest traditions on the mountain. Cunningham actually met one of his best friends trading pins on the steps of Eureka Hall many years ago. New members may feel intimidated by all of the traditions but Cunningham’s advice is “you need to embrace (the traditions), you discover them on your own and you need to experience them yourself for the first time.” But, “Never underestimate the ability of one person to have a tradition that lives on for many, many years,” he said.