Emery GAG Day: The Extremities, Secrets, and Stories

Emery students celebrating at the 2022 GAG Day outbreak.

Brittney Ford

Emery students celebrating at the 2022 GAG Day outbreak.

Marissa Bishop and Lauren Miller

Emery students have been experiencing the infamous annual GAG day for years, however, do they know the history behind the tradition of the surprise half day? 

Emery GAG Day has been a tradition throughout the school since its opening in 2001, brought by Head of School, Stuart Dow. It a day in the second semester in which high school students are given a half-day off by surprise. Dow gives an extravagant breakout halfway through the day where students celebrate the infamous day. 

Dow drew inspiration from his own high school experience to come up with the idea for the random day off. At his alma mater, The St. Johns School, Dow enjoyed their “Mrs. Mulligan Day,” however, he said he wanted to give it an “Emery twist.” 

GAG stands for Great Aunt Gertrude, whom Dow describes as a “classic, Jewish Bubbe, grandma type.” There are numerous conspiracies throughout the Emery community about whether Great Aunt Gertrude exists, Dow neither confirms nor denies the questionings saying, “I think Great Aunt Gertrude does exist…  somewhere, she’s like Bigfoot. There have been sightings, so I believe in her.” 

To spark excitement within the student body, Dow loves to plan a “breakout” for the day. Only three staff members typically know about the breakout, as it is kept very locked up. The excitement and love for the breakout is overwhelming, making “the buildup as good as the day itself.”

Many years ago, however, the breakout for GAG day was extreme. Dow told the students that they would be breaking a Guinness World Record for circle dancing. Dow hired actors to perform as Guinness record officials and ABC reporters. The actors explained all the meticulous rules, as Dow believes that “any good lie or gag has a lot of details.” 

Ultimately, the actors told the school that we had won a world record, and all the students and staff were extremely excited. The next day, students were posting on Facebook that Emery had won a World Record, but the issue was, they really hadn’t. 

“So, I had to explain to the students that it was a joke, and they were so mad, until they realized that the Head of School pulled a massive prank on all the students and staff, and everyone got over it,” Dow explained. Since this ridiculous GAG day experience, Dow has found other ways for students to experience GAG day, such as videos during assembly, or large breakouts that feature bands, dancers, singers, and people throughout the community.

This year, on April 1, the 2022 GAG Day breakout took place. After the cast and crew of Pippin performed an extraordinary preview of the Upper School Musical, Dow gave one of his coveted D’var Torahs with no mention of the anticipated day.  As the assembly came to a close, and students began to lose any hope of GAG Day, a video played, breaking out the half-day. Students cheered, celebrated, and rejoiced, as they listened to live music by Emery’s own instrumental music teacher, Kelly Dean’s live band.