DECATUR — The annual Cookie Party at Millikin University is the event of the Christmas season.
The line for cookies stretched from the lobby of the University Commons all the way up to the third floor, where the party was, by 2 p.m. when it started.
“It's to celebrate the end of the semester and the start of finals,” said Molly Berry, chairwoman of the event, which was held for the 84th year this year. “This is the most stressful week of the semester for them, so we put this together, and we get about 5,500 cookies from the staff who bake them.”
Not everyone who provides cookies bakes them, though many do, she said. If they need more than the staff can provide they ask Heartland Technical Academy to pitch in.
Students from the School of Music provided a steady stream of live Christmas carols, all of them dressed in festive elf hats and Christmas sweaters, and even accepted requests. Hot punch and apple cider was available, too.
“We're always slammed for the first hour,” Berry said. “After that, it dies down, and then it picks up again right at the end.”
Signs urged party-goers to take only the cookies they could eat, and Berry said they don't allow students to bring containers and take cookies away for later.
“It's a party, not a potluck,” she said with a laugh.
Almost every person in the University Commons was carrying a plate of cookies, and most found a place to sit on the floor or at tables in the lobby, with a lot of chatting and visiting going on as well. Richland Community College was having its cookie party on Wednesday as well, she said.
“It's Sugar Day in Decatur,” she said.
Studying for finals and finishing up projects and papers has kept most students too busy to socialize over the last couple of weeks, said senior McKinley Paratore, a digital media marketing major, so the Cookie Party is a chance to take a break and catch up with friends before finals start on Monday.
“I think it's a really good way for the staff to give the students appreciation, because the students appreciate the staff so much,” Paratore said. “It's the idea of community and seeing people you haven't seen all week, because you're studying in your room and I get to see my friends here I haven't seen in a while.”
Berry said a lot of students are “sleepless” as they make that last push before finals, so a break is a good thing for them.
Shelby Baum, a 2011 alumna who works in the Office of Admissions, made four dozen chocolate chip cookies for the event and was in the overflow room, where the trays were replenished regularly as staff and students emptied them. She remembers that last week before finals well, she said, and the Cookie Party was a welcome reprieve.
“It's a good way to be reminded of what's fun about Millikin,” she said. “People can get together with their friends.”