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The Spring Festival

by AJ Rossi | University of Pennsylvania

F Posted in: College, Voices P Posted on: April 17, 2012
headshot aj rossi AJ Rossi

Spring is in the air, the grass is green, trees are blooming, summer vacation is on the horizon…what’s not to love about college life?

Each year, college students around the country temporarily escape from academia, letting loose to celebrate their school spirit and hallowed traditions. The end of the spring semester heralds a time of excitement and good weather, a time to kick back and relax before the stress of final exams. So what does this mean?

Spring Festivals. The final blowout bash. At many schools these “festivals” are large, campus-wide block parties that span an entire weekend (longer if you are really ambitious), replete with live concerts featuring big-name artists and student groups, outdoor carnivals and games, food vendors, and tailgating traditions accompanying sporting events.

One of the longest running such festivals is the University of Pennsylvania’s Spring Fling, touted as the “biggest (and best) college festival on the East Coast.” Penn attracts over 10,000 students and guests to their Quad carnival and Friday night concert featuring artists like Akon, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Kid Cudi, Passion Pit, Tiesto, and Flo Rida. Cornell University throws a similar bonanza, called Slope Day, which has been in existence since 1901, highlighted by Greek parties and barbeques. This year, Bowdoin College hosts its 141st “Ivies Weekend,” Colby College celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with “Doghead,” during which attendees eat live goldfish and drink green beer, and Princeton’s Eating Clubs host epic “Lawn Parties.”

What do these festivals mean to students? For some, it is merely an excuse to get outrageously inebriated for an entire weekend. But for others, it is a time to celebrate school spirit and enjoy traditions and friends. The epic festival weekend isn’t limited to concerts and carnivals. At many schools, the crazy weekend centers around a big game day. At the University of Notre Dame, PigTostal includes a massive tailgate cookout on the same day as the “Blue and Gold” game. The University of Richmond also has a “Pig Roast,” while the Texas A&M campus features “Chilifest.”

There is no shortage of “fests:” Mayfest (Syracuse University), Palmerfest (Ohio University), Craigsfest (Loyola University Maryland), Cedarfest (Michigan State University)…

And yet a merry evening maketh a sad morning, as the saying goes. At least this is the case for university administrators that must deal with the fallout from the drunken revelry and destruction that comes with thousands of college students coming together to celebrate. Medical emergencies and violence abound as students get caught up in the excitement; at times, anything goes. At schools that essentially dominate a college town, the damage can be significant, including vandalism and rowdy disruption in residential areas. There is a tenuous and—for university officials—often elusive balance between safety and fun.

During Penn’s Spring Fling, for example, the student government works with the university administration, residential house deans, medical first responders, and campus police to ensure a safe carnival and concert. “Fling Safe” student volunteers even help by taking sober shifts looking out for fellow classmates that may be in trouble from alcohol or drug use. The goal is not to get students in disciplinary trouble or rain on their parade; rather, it is to protect the merrymakers and the greater community.

Spring festivals provide an important release and often mark some of the greatest moments of the year. As long as everyone surfaces safely on the other side, party on!


Some favorites by category:

Fun Names and Traditions

Doo Dah Day — Marietta College: Students kick off the weekend with mud volleyball and partying… then continue partying.

Dillo Day — Northwestern University: Short for Armadillo Day, this combines a traditional May Day celebration with an all-day lakefront music festival. Who knew celebrating the armadillo could be so much fun?

Floatopia — University of California, Santa Barbara: Students take beach partying to the extreme, taking over the California beaches and floating on rafts and inflatables along the coast.

Newman Day — Bates College: Each year, the Bobcats take their cue from the late Paul Newman when he commented while speaking on their campus: “24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.”

Rites of Spring –Vanderbilt University: Students bask in the sun every spring as they enjoy a campus wide warm weather music festival.


Athletics & Competitions:

Marathon Monday — Boston College: Athletic feats and partying combine (kind of) as the students of Commonwealth Avenue cheer on the courageous marathon runners.

Slugfest — University of North Carolina: Party-goers enjoy a 24-hour softball tournament along with an all-day beach concert hosted by the brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

The Carolina Cup — University of South Carolina: Students host a tailgating and steeplechase race combination like no other.

Grand Prix — Purdue University: Massive fraternity parties and an epic charity go-kart race…what more could you ask for?

Tour De Franzia — Hobart College: Just use your imagination.

AJ Rossi AJ Rossi Currently a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, AJ is studying Political Science and Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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