Nykerk Is Here!

Hello Readers! I hope your week is going well so far and you aren’t too busy. Any weekend plans? No? Well let me tell you about an event this weekend that you won’t want to miss: Nykerk!

What is Nykerk, you ask? Good question. Nykerk is an amazing performance put on by the freshmen and sophomores (odd year and even year) in a competition which includes song, play and oration. This year it will take place on the 31st of October (yes, that’s Halloween) at 7 p.m. in DeVos Fieldhouse. I am on the executive board for Nykerk as the junior treasurer and am so excited for this event to take place so that you all can be a witness to what the exec board and the participants have been working so hard to put on for you!

If you’re interested in what the song part of Nykerk looks like (which I was a part of last year) you can check it out here. It was so satisfying to perform it in front of a crowd and do it well. If you make it out on Saturday, you can expect some cool hand motions and some awesome play moves.

Tuesday night, as a part of Nykerk, everyone involved in Nykerk got to go to Nykerk Candlelight, which is a way to form camaraderie between Even and Odd year before the big show on Saturday. The tradition is that all participants of Nykerk go to the President’s house to sing the Alma Mater to him with candles made for them by their secret sisters. Secret sisters are sophomores girls that have been moraling a freshman girl for the three weeks leading up to Nykerk. Tuesday was when everyone found out who’s secret sister was who.

Nykerk Candlelight
This is just a glimpse of what candlelight looked like from the front porch of Kelly Knapp!

Again, Nykerk is this Saturday, October 31st and you can buy tickets at the ticket office, online, or call there to reserve them! Tickets are $7. I hope you all can make it out on Saturday! Can’t wait to see you there!

Until next time readers!

Even Year Wins!

Well, readers, the title says it all. Even Year won the Pull yesterday, and it was intense. As an Odd Year student standing on the odd side of the Black River, the Odd Year Pull team gave it their best, but was outdone by even year.

For those of you that don’t know what The Pull is, it is basically a huge tug of war that goes from one shore of the Black River in Holland to the other. Crazy right? The team that wins doesn’t win anything, just pride. Apparently the tradition was started in 1898, and this year was the 118th year of the tradition, one of the oldest college traditions in the United States! Here are some more neat tidbits about this Hope College tradition. They have all the stats and history and it’s a great site for quick facts!

Like I said before, I’m Odd Year (because I graduate in 2017). Last year was a proud time because Odd Year won the Pull and set a record for how much rope was pulled ever! It was amazing watching them get to run in the Black River and celebrate their win. This year though, the Odd Year team had to watch as even year took that swim in the river. Saying that though, Odd Year truly gave it their best effort and made their 1-9 Pull family proud.

Congrats even year! It was awesome seeing you win and get to swim in the river!

Until next time, Readers!


Questions about what I wrote, or about life in general? Check the bio and shoot me an email!

Nykerk Withdrawals

Oh No! Not another blog about Nykerk…well I can’t help it. It is been a part of my life for the last two years, and now it is done. I must write about it to commend the memories and people that have inspired me along the Nykerk Way.

If you are reading this and you are thinking, “What on earth is Nykerk?!?!,” then read this blog from my fellow blogger, Brooke Wharton ’18. She sums it up superbly!

This is picture of the ODD year play girls (’17) preforming their play on Nykerk Day.

So Nykerk from my perspective: a playboy….”WHAT!?!? A playboy.” Don’t fret. Not what you’re thinking. As Brooke mentioned, there are three different types of events that go on at Nykerk: song, oration, and PLAY.




Sarah Jane
This is picture of Reveal Night, when my code name was announced and my playgirl, Sarah Jane, discovered who I was!

As a playboy, it is my job to morale for the play girls (and thus, that is why I am called a playboy.) As a playboy, first, it is my job to flower one specific girl with gifts, emails, encouragement, and support as her life becomes consumed with the busy joy that we call Nykerk. Oh! And I forgot to mention, she has no idea who I am. 🙂 Secondly, with my fellow playboys,  we build the set for the show which we work on every evening. We then are the set crew on the actual performance day. Lastly, we create skits every night for the girls. We perform them after their practice in hopes to make them laugh. All in all, Nykerk is a huge time commitment. At LEAST 2 hours every night, but usually much more. So yes…It is a HUGE commitment, but so so so so so so (get my point?) so worth it.

“Why is it so worth it?” you might ask. WELL, it is fun. I had a blast building a set for the show as well as creating as preforming skits every day. It is fun because I got to support my playgirl from afar while knowing she had no idea who I was. But do you want to know the deep root behind the fun? The people. I am so fortunate to have done play this year and gotten to build these amazing relationships with my Nykerk Play Family. That’s right…FAMILY. We have all grown close over the last three weeks and I am honored to call each and everyone of them my friends. They all hold a special place in my heart.

So this brings me back to the title of the post: “Nykerk Withdrawals.” As of Monday this week, my Nykerk season officially ended. It ended with some tears, laughs, and many hugs. Due to me not being either an underclassmen next year, my time with Nykerk has reached its end. It is now a part of my past and I am going to miss it, as I do now…but I can walk away proudly and look back on each and every play member and say, without hesitation, “I had the time of my life, and I own it all to you…”

For more about me, follow me on twitter @hopejohnluke17 or on Instagram at johnlukehawkins. Until next time!

The ‘Kerk is Over

Well, Nykerk is over as fast as it came. These past three weeks have been nothing but fun, and on Saturday, it was the culmination of a lot of great talent.

As most of you know, Nykerk had a change of venue this year. DeVos is now the new home of the Nykerk tradition, and as expected, there were some huge changes, but also a lot more places to sit!


As you can see, instead of the normal set up at the Civic Center where Odd Year song is facing Even year song in the bleachers, DeVos offered a stage that allowed everyone to see every event. Essentially, there were no bad seats in DeVos. The executive board did an awesome job with making the transition from the Civic Center to DeVos seamless and comfortable for everyone.

On to the events!

The first event that was performed was the Freshmen Song. They sang one song: Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten. You can watch that here!

They did a great job and got this Hope tradition off to a wonderful start.

Next, was the Sophomore orator. Oration is the art of writing a speech and performing it. It’s hard enough memorizing a speech, but performing it in front of hundreds of people is a whole different feat. Sophomore Maddie Chapman did a great job incorporating the theme of the year, laughter, into her speech and her grace and poise shined through while she was reciting her piece.

After oration was the Freshmen play. This year’s plays were hard to maneuver because there essentially was no backstage, only scene changes. Both freshmen and sophomore play did awesome with that transition. The freshmen play loosely followed the plot of The Wizard of Oz with their own Even Year twist. The floating head of President Knapp as the great and powerful Oz was a nice touch, and overall their play was hilarious!

After intermission was the sophomore song. As per sophomore tradition, the song they performed was a medley. This year the medley was of 80’s songs, and it lasted about nine minutes. It was a great way to showcase the class of 2017’s last year of Nykerk. Check it out!

Next up was the freshmen orator, Cassidy Bernhardt. Cassidy, like Maddie, wrote and spoke about the subject of laughter. Her speech talked about laughter as a garden. Her motions perfectly matched her words, and she conveyed a great story. Even though Cassidy’s speech was later in the program, it kept my attention and made me think about how laughter is applied to my life.

The last event of the night was the sophomore play. Their play was about a European Princess who wants to go to college in the United States and finds Hope College!…but not before she goes to the Imperial Ball with the President of the United States in attendance! There were a lot of funny scenes in their play and it was a great ending to the Nykerk tradition!

After all these fun events, the Even Year freshmen took the Nykerk Cup! Everyone did a great job, and even though this was my first year participating in Nykerk, it was the best experience I could ask for! I would recommend that every freshman and sophomore at Hope get involved in Nykerk because it is a wonderful experience.

Until next time, readers! Hope you enjoyed your weekend!

The ‘Kerk is here!

November is just a few days away, and what’s a better way to ring in the new month than with another one of Hope’s age old traditions? That’s right folks, you guessed it! Nykerk is this coming Saturday, November 1st!! And this year is a very special year, because it is also the traditions 80th year! 80 years of Nykerk! Wowza!

If you aren’t familiar with what Nykerk is, let me tell you, it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen. You’ve seen choirs, sure. You’ve even seen comical plays and people giving speeches. But you’ve never seen anything like Nykerk. The combination of catchy songs, and group choreography with props is so good, it’s sure to give you chills when you watch the Song Girls preform. And you’ll be sure to gain some abdominal muscles when watching the Play Girls do their thing as well. Their plays are always packed with Hope humor and big actions and story lines. So entertaining! But when you hear Oration, forget everything you ever knew about public speaking, because these girls truly redefine the act by bringing so much emotion to the audience, that the entire room is silent.

If you’re still curious about what Nykerk is all about, here’s a little taste of what the Odd Year ’17 Song Girls preformed last year.

Crazy, right?!

How did they learn all those moves and all those melodies while managing to keep smiles on their faces and making it look effortless?! Truly, so much work goes into Nykerk and it does NOT go unnoticed because every year the performances are amazing.

Last year, I didn’t participate in Nykerk and, because of my participation this year, I have no idea why I didn’t. It is such a great way to meet girls that are excited about singing and being part of something so much bigger than yourselves. It brought back my love of music that I lost after high school choir and I’ve made so many more friends through this wonderful experience.

This is just a taste of what this weekend will hold for you, should you choose to go to Nykerk. I really encourage everyone to go, because it’s such a wonderfully unique tradition, but if you can’t make it out, don’t worry! In next week’s blog, I’ll have all the details of the entire competition.

Until next time, readers!

Tugging a rope all day.

On Saturday, September 27th, Hope College had their 117th Pull competition. For those of you who don’t know, Pull is the longest college tradition in the nations that consists of Odd Year versus Even Year playing a crazy intense game of “tug-a-war” across the black river. Odd year consisted of the sophomores (class off 17′) with senior coaches (15′). Even Year consisted of the freshmen (18′) with juniors as their coaches (16′). Below are some pictures that help explain the pull.

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Here is a video right before the pull of the girls moralers getting pumped!

Here is a video of the very beginning of the pull!


In the end, the Sophomores (ODD YEAR) won after a hard 3 hours. They also set a record for the most feet ever pulled with 90 feet, 8 more feet than the previous record! GO ODD YEAR! It was a great day!


Nykerk Odd Year Coach Pictures

A few weeks ago, all of us Odd Year coaches had a mini-reunion for some laughs and pictures. The following are what came out of our time together. Taking coach pictures is an Odd Year tradition, and I was so happy to continue it with the wonderful Song and Play coaches. Shout out to the very talented Brooke for taking our pictures!

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Hope you enjoyed them! Happy Friday!


The Class of 2017 wins Nykerk!

As many of you know, the annual Hope tradition Nykerk occurred last weekend. I know that my words could never completely describe Nykerk, so take a look at some pictures, all of which, and more, can be found on Hope’s website!

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Winning was awesome, but I was more proud of how everyone performed. Both songs were BEYOND AMAZING (If you don’t believe me, check out the sophomore song here and the freshman song here) and the plays were hilarious, as always. Rosemary, the sophomore orator, also did a fabulous job.

I was especially proud of how the orator I have been coaching, Gabby, performed. She went up on stage and delivered her speech with poise, confidence, and a smile. Claire and I could not have been happier with the way she performed. The last few days of practice, Claire and I let her rehearse her speech over and over again to feel comfortable with it. It was during that time when the speech transformed from a memorized, choreographed three and a half-page essay into a visual and audible piece of art.

Through the whole process, Gabby was gracious, hard-working, and flexible. We cut out some parts of the speech three days before Nykerk and made some minor voice inflection changes the night before, and Gabby didn’t complain once. She has been such a joy and light in my life these past few weeks and I already miss spending time with her!

I could not have asked for a better Nykerk season. I would like to say a big thank you to the executive board for all of their hard work, my fellow odd year coaches and the even year coaches for their support, and of course all of the participants for making the 79th Nykerk Cup the best one yet!



I can barely contain my excitement.

After almost a year of waiting (I started counting down the days the day after it occurred last year), my favorite time of the year is upon us.


Nykerk is a competition between the freshman and sophomore women in three categories: song, play and oration. It was started in 1935 by then Professor John Nykerk as the women’s alternative to The Pull. It has changed over the years, but the basic premise has remained (still a little confused? go here for more information).

What makes Nykerk different for me this year is that I am an oration coach! As a member of the Nykerk committee, I get an inside look at the behind the scenes work of Nykerk. As a freshman or sophomore participant, you aren’t aware of the work that the coaches and executive board do outside of practice to make Nykerk possible. Now that I have some insight into what goes on, I have gained so much more respect for my song and oration coaches (shout out to Alicia, Mara, Cara, and Zoey!).

The kickoff for the Nykerk season, the rally, was last Wednesday. Seeing the sophomores so excited and watching the freshmen get excited was so much fun. Even though Nykerk is a competition, the love and spirit of Nykerk is shared by all who participate!

To introduce the three areas of competition, the coaches perform skits or make videos. Check out this hilarious video, made by the freshman play coaches!

Practices for song, play and oration started this past week. From conversations I’ve had with other coaches, it seems to be going well so far!!

I’m purposefully keeping this post sparse on details, because I will be writing lots more on Nykerk in the coming weeks. I can’t help it; I have to let you all know how ODD-mazing Nykerk is! 😉

Are you in Nykerk? Let me know how it is going for you so far! Tweet at me or leave a comment!


My Nykerk Weekend!!

Well, it finally came! The day I had been preparing for since early October, Nykerk, was this past Saturday. But it wasn’t just the event itself that was so much fun; the whole weekend was a blast! Not only because of Nykerk, but also because it was family weekend! Moms, dads, siblings, aunts, uncles, and more came from all across the country to visit their family member at Hope. So as you can imagine, the weekend was crazy packed!

On Friday night, I went to a Nykerk odd year event called Family Night. All of the sophomores and senior coaches participating in Nykerk got together to celebrate our accomplishments and be together as an Odd Year family one last time before Nykerk. It gave me an opportunity to see my friends in song and play that I haven’t been seeing very much of. As you can see, I also used the opportunity to take a bunch of pictures!

The Song, Play, and Oration coaches each did something fun for the girls they worked with. The Song coaches wrote a song for the Song girls, the Play coaches wrote a haiku poem for each of the Play girls, and my coaches wrote and sang me a song to the tune of “Mamma Mia” by ABBA. Hearing the songs and poems about our time in Nykerk this year was definitely a tear jerker for me. I can’t believe how fast it goes by each year!

Another big event that happens on Family Night is the reveal of the morale boys. All throughout the Nykerk season, morale boys for Song and Play, or Play boys, had been diligently encouraging us girls with skits each night for Song and Play, as well as posters and candy. My morale boy was Connor, a Play boy, who did a GREAT job of moraling me, as you can see from the picture.

It made me feel like I was in a spy movie, because I had to somehow maneuver my way in between all of that string. Let me tell you, it was not easy! Best of all, they gave me lots of candy. If you look carefully on my desk, you can see a little yellow packet and a purple one right next to it. The yellow one is a packet of Mallow Cups, and the purple one is gummy bears. And inside at least 10 of those balloons is a mini Snickers, which I adore. I still can’t believe they did all of that for me! Thanks a bunch guys!

Back to family night, the Song morale boys and the Play boys each did one final skit. It was so sad to think that after all of the skits they had put on for us, this was the end. Odd year family night was just one big night of sadness, but also lots of smiles at remembering all of the fun we had over the last two years.

On Saturday, I got up suuuper early to go the the Nykerk breakfast, an annual tradition. It is a time for all of those involved in Nykerk, even and odd year men and women, to come together one last time before the show. This is also a time when the junior coaches for the next freshman class are  announced. I was so happy when Claire and I were officially made the 1-7 Oration coaches! I can’t wait to work with her next year and I can’t wait to find out who our orator will be!

Later that morning, I went to the siblings breakfast, which was on the schedule for Parents Weekend. My family drove all the way from Iowa to see me perform in Nykerk, and I was so happy to have them there! My sister Priscilla and I had a great time watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and getting to meet Dutch. I think this will become an tradition for us!

That night, I went out to dinner with my family, my coaches and their families. We ate at Butch’s in downtown Holland, which I had never been to previously, and is now one of my favorite restaurants in Holland. It’s during the dinner that I started to get really nervous about the performance. I tried to stay calm and focus on eating my food, but the thought that I would be performing in front of 3,000 people was too nerve-wracking for me. Somehow I managed to keep myself somewhat calm and get through the dinner.

Finally, it was time to go to the Civic Center. I had only a little bit of time to walk around and get my microphone before the show started. At 7 PM, I went backstage to be introduced with my escorts. I chose to have both of my parents escort me because I couldn’t choose just one to be with me. As soon as I got backstage, the nerves hit me in full force. After some lame attempts to breathe deeply and calm myself down, I just accepted that I was going to be nervous and did my best to not let it show. One of the coolest parts of Nykerk was walking out with my parents and hearing all of the applause for us. In that moment, I felt so loved and realized that no matter how I did, I had a strong support system behind me. 

I’m going to be totally honest with you: I didn’t pay very much attention to the freshman song. Can you blame me? I was performing right after them! My legs were shaking during the entire song. Luckily, I had a long dress on, and no one could tell. I went over my speech a few times in my head and gave myself a pep talk. I told myself that if there was ever a time to be brave, ever a time to be bold, that time is now. With those thoughts in mind, I got up out of my seat and made my way to the stage. As soon I got up the stairs and went to the middle of the stage, my nerves vanished. Just like that. I took a few deep breaths, waited for the lights to come up, and started my speech.

It felt just like the multiple rehearsals I had at the Civic Center earlier that week. I tried to let the speech flow without letting myself get too much in the way, if that makes sense. I knew I had this speech memorized inside and out. All I needed to do was show the audience and judges. All throughout the speech, I told myself that as soon as I made it to the final sentence and hit that last pose, I would be okay.

So go out into the world; get your hands dirty, make amends. And prepare for your embrace!

The feeling after that was indescribable. Having so many people cheering for me was beyond amazing. I floated on cloud 9 back to my seat and started sobbing. The biggest reason was relief; for almost one month I had been working tirelessly to make this speech as good as it could be, and sitting in my seat, I believed I did just that. Another reason was pure happiness. Sometime between the rough drafts and late nights, this speech had worked its way into my heart, and being able to have the opportunity to share this part of my thoughts with an audience was extremely rewarding. After I was all out of tears, I sat back and enjoyed the rest of the show, which was soooo good. 

At the end of the show, the winning class was announced and the cup went to the freshmen. I can’t lie; not winning was really sad, because so many of us had invested so much time into Nykerk, and after all, it is a competition. However, I can also say that winning Nykerk isn’t everything. Sure, the cup would have been nice, but it’s the friendships I made, the laughs I shared, and those hilarious morale boy skits I’m going to remember years from now and treasure, not the cup.

So that was my Nykerk experience! I loved every second of this season, and last season when I was a Song girl, and I wouldn’t trade my two years of performing in Nykerk for anything in the world. For anyone out there who is thinking about doing Nykerk, do it. For sure. It gave me some of my best memories, and it might just give you some of your best ones too. Let the countdown to the 79th Nykerk Cup begin!

— Rachael