The opening ceremony for the 42nd National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC) was greeted with gusto by students in Lamb’s Chapel in Haw River, North Carolina.
Participants from various universities streamed in wearing matching attire and hoisted their flags high with pride. Vuvuzelas were trumpeted and shakers were rattled as schools practiced their chants, amping up for the roll call later.
Sabeena Hickman, CEO for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), started things off by sharing how each year she has attended, things have only gotten better and better.
“This week is our March Madness,” she said. “Each one of you here is an MVP.”
Dr. Algie Gatewood, president of Alamance Community College, recognized the professors who were instrumental in helping the college host the event and welcomed the students.
“Here you are truly welcome,” he said. “We’re just happy to have you here.”
Next, NALP’s president Jon Cundiff, also president of Weed Man Kansas City, spoke and thanked the sponsors for investing in NCLC. He also praised the students for being proactive in their careers by attending.
“It is an inspiration to me to look out and see the future of the industry,” Cundiff said.
Stihl’s corporate communications manager, Roger Phelps, shared about how he has been attending NCLC since he joined the company 17 years ago and how he still looks forward to it every year.
To help students realize how many people are invested in their future, he asked all industry members, NALP members and faculty to stand so they could see how many were there. He then asked that they take the time to thank some of these industry members individually for coming.
This year’s Young Entrepreneur Award was presented to Zeke Cooper, partner and principal of Cooper/Stewart Landscape Architecture, based in Cherokee, North Carolina. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with a master’s degree in landscape architecture.
He worked on the $650 million expansion of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and since then, the landscape at the resort has won a number of national awards. Yet Cooper says he made every mistake in the book on this project but says it was good because he was able to learn from them.
He thanked NALP for his award and advised students to stay involved with the association. He told the students that at all times they have two choices they can make every day.
“You control your attitude, so stay positive, and you decide every morning how hard you’re going to work,” Cooper said.
He also mentioned motivational speaker Jim Ryan’s four questions to ask yourself regularly. The four questions were why, why not, why not me and why not now, which can help an individual evaluate their actions and what they are currently doing.
Kory Beidler, with LandCare and chairman of NCLC, spoke and also passed the torch of chairman on to Doug Halsey with Ruppert Landscape. Halsey will lead NCLC for the next three years.
The winner of the T-shirt design contest sponsored by Husqvarna was Erin Norrison from the University of Rhode Island.
Over 700 students from 61 colleges and universities were in attendance and for many, it was their first time, but this didn’t diminish their love for the last part of the program known as roll call.
Like last year, John Deere, who judges roll call, opted to channel the March Madness spirit and create a final four bracket of the best college chants. Some colleges kept it short and sweet with loud war cries, but others combined creativity with pop culture.
Sandhills Community College, which won roll call last year, did a parody of the Ghostbusters theme song and Alamance Community College went for the childhood favorite, the Spongebob Squarepants theme song.
The final four ended up being Clackamas Community College, Iowa State University, University of Wisconsin – Platteville and Virginia Tech.
Clackamas Community College sang about “We’re planting” while Iowa State took advantage of this year’s location to do a song to the tune of “Sweet Caroline.” University of Wisconsin – Platteville sang a rendition of AC/DC’s “T.N.T.”
Joseph Mills with Virginia Tech blew the competitors away with his version of Kanye West’s rap “POWER” as the audience selected them with a roar of applause as the winners.
Mills says that after last year’s roll call he wanted to do something better, so he wrote a chant a week later and then in January he created a couple more drafts before memorizing the rap.
“Literally I pitched it to my team about 20 minutes before the thing started and we got the horn section going, we got people clapping and I was like ‘It’s going to take too long to have you guys learn the lyrics. I’d love to have you guys do it but I’m pretty confident, I’ll just do it,’” he said. “So, when we did it for the first time that was our first time ever doing it together. So, when we got called up back again on the stage to do it I was like ‘Wow, that’s actually something really special’ and when we won I just couldn’t believe it.”
John Deere awarded Virginia Tech $1,000 for winning the roll call.
“We want to reward passion and creativity,” one of the John Deere representatives.
You can view the final four’s chants on TLC’s Instagram.