Every year around this time, the sidewalks and fields outside of residence halls begin to fill with blank coolers.
Decorating coolers has become a tradition for college students throughout the south, specifically here at Elon University who are invited to banquet — a weekend event hosted by fraternities across campus typically held at Myrtle Beach.
After being invited, it becomes the date’s responsibility to buy and decorate a cooler to be used throughout the weekend by the pair.
The process of decorating is a long one, but for junior Franki Filandro, the yearly event serves as a source of excitement.
Each person’s cooler is different, but Filandro highlighted five steps everyone should follow to ensure a successful project.
So what goes on each cooler?
“I always incorporate things that are personal to the person that is receiving the cooler into the design,” Filandro said. “I like to mesh multiple things into one design and make it fit together. Another typical design is to incorporate something that has to do with their [Greek] organization.”
Not only is there a significant time commitment involved in decorating — sometimes spanning over a few days — but there is also a monetary commitment.
Coolers can be anywhere from $20 to $40, and each coat of paint is about $10. But for seasoned decorators such as Filandro — who is now working on her third cooler since arriving at Elon — students often accumulate paint over the years.
Rachel Adams, an alumna of the University of South Carolina, started the popular Facebook page “The Cooler Connection” as a freshman. The page was initially for other girls in her pledge class so they could share ideas for cooler designs. The page has grown exponentially throughout the last 10 years, now reaching almost 100,000 members, including many current Elon students.
Adams said she always free-handed her designs, which can make the process much longer.
“My least favorite part was sketching all of the designs onto the cooler before you could start painting,” Adams said. “I’m a perfectionist and I would focus on the most minor things I wanted to adjust and spend hours just making sure my lines and proportions were right. If I could get those hours back, I probably would have gotten a 4.0.”
Filandro says if cooler making is an annual occurrence then it pays to save up old paint rather than buy new bottles every year.
“I never have to reinvest since a little goes a long way. I enjoy painting so much that it usually doesn’t take me too long to finish one completely,” Filandro said. “If you have fun with it, it won’t take more than 15 hours total [to complete it].”
Filandro says it’s always good to talk to the recipient’s friends for ideas if you’re stumped. Her freshman year, Filandro says she discovered a secret weapon: Mod Podge.
“There was one image I really did not want to paint so I just printed it and modpodged it on,” she said.
After gathering all your materials — and finding a nice spot on campus with some friends to start crafting — Adams says the most important thing to do is enjoy it.
“My biggest tip is to let it be fun,” Adams said. “Don’t make it into a project you have to do — that’s when you start getting frustrated and annoyed at the amount of attention and time it takes.”