Annual trips include costly painted coolers
It is customary for the fraternity brothers' dates to bring a cooler for the weekend, but there is more to the tradition than the food and beverages that go inside.
Caroline Trawick, a third-year business student, has painted seven coolers during her time at USC and offered her insight into how much time, effort and money is typically put into this tradition.
While prices range, Trawick estimated that the cost of a typical mountain weekend can reach $200 including the cooler, food and beverages. Painted coolers can cost anywhere from $60 to $80 depending on the size and brand of the cooler plus the paints, paint pens, acrylic spray and brushes.
Brooke Jordan, a second-year broadcast journalism student, recently attended the Pi Kappa Phi mountain weekend and said she spent $40 on the cooler, $15 on other supplies and $60 on food and beverages.
But going beyond the financial aspect, both Trawick and Jordan indicated the amount of time and thought they put into their coolers. The idea is to create something that aligns with the date's interests.
"You try to customize it as best as possible for whomever you are giving it to — just like you would any gift you would give," Trawick said.
Jordan said she painted her date's favorite brand logos on one side, including Southern Tide, Polo Ralph Lauren and Vineyard Vines. She also incorporated his fraternity's crest and a quote from its creed.
Stephanie Durso, a third-year visual communications student, recently attended the Beta Theta Pi mountain weekend and said she brainstormed ideas for her cooler by looking at examples online and thinking of her date's interests. She said she browsed The Cooler Connection, a Facebook page where girls share photos of their painted coolers.
"I made sure that I edited his interests into the design so that it reflected things that he liked," Durso said.
Durso took multiple steps to create the designs on her cooler, which includes a colorful painting of Williams-Brice Stadium. She said she first sanded the cooler, then primed it, painted it and finally used an acrylic spray named Modge Podge to seal the paint.
Trawick said she has known girls to start painting a month in advance, but that one can be done in about a week if a few hours are spent on it every day.
"I remember working all day every day for four days straight freshman year because I put it off thinking it wouldn't be hard," Trawick said.
To make the process smoother, she recommends planning and sketching each side of the cooler first and writing out all of the colors before buying paint to avoid making a second trip to the store.