Terrace Chairs

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Close-up of yellow, green, and orange sunburst chairs at the Un

The colors of the sunburst chairs were chosen to celebrate the seasons and evoke Wisconsin farming traditions: John Deere green, and Allis-Chalmers orange and yellow. Photos by Jeff Miller

1933
first version of the Terrace chair created

1981
current sunburst chair design implemented

214
days that the chairs were outside in 2017 (varies yearly)

$30,000
annual budget for new chairs

$350
price for the public to buy a red or white chair (only colors available for purchase)

1,000+
chairs on the Terrace at any given time

60+
chairs budgeted to be replaced annually

When gray snow and frigid winter days begin to fade, spring reintroduces some of our favorite things to campus: sunshine, picnics on Bascom Hill, and the iconic Memorial Union Terrace chairs.

The sunburst design — perhaps Madison’s most recognizable symbol — sparks fond memories of times spent hanging out with friends and gazing at Lake Mendota’s many moods.

Following the Union’s years of renovation, staff and student leaders decided to start a new tradition. Since 2016, they’ve invited eager students and community members to join the fun of opening the Terrace and populating it with the green, yellow, and orange chairs.

Sometime in early April (depending on the weather, but it’s often a little chilly), Union staff puts out a call for Terrace lovers to prepare for the chairs’ return. Volunteers line up an hour in advance, waiting for facilities staff to unload trucks and line the chairs up along the side of the building.

With a signal given via megaphone, volunteers carry the chairs down to the Terrace, passing by members of the always-entertaining Badger Band and a very happy Bucky Badger.

The sunburst season has officially begun.

“Terrace season means it’s time to start building connections, having a good time, running into past friends, and enjoying some sun,” says Iffat Bhuiyan ’18, last year’s Wisconsin Union student president.

The final touch to the day? Free Babcock Dairy ice cream and the first of many relaxing times on the Terrace.

Published in the Spring 2019 issue

Tags: Memorial Union, Terrace, Tradition, Union

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