The leaves are starting to take on an orange tint, and everyone’s switching to warm amber sweaters and cozy denim jackets. In the space of a day, the temperature has dropped drastically, and there’s a fresh chill in the air. It’s October, and fall is finally here. And what better way to inaugurate the onset of New New York’s quintessential season than Fall Fest?
Held on Oct. 1 this year, Fall Fest is Main House’s signature all-campus event. Last Sunday, the Library Lawn was teeming with flannel-clad students as they lounged on picnic blankets and munched on popcorn, watched a string of musical performances, hovered between tables set up by several different student orgs and delved into the depths of the colossal Batman bouncy house.
Fall Fest is a long-standing Vassar tradition that is intended to bring people together as autumn rolls around. Main House President Simone Karuga ’20 explained, “We wanted to emphasize the feeling of amicability and ease at this event. We really liked that people were able to sit, talk, eat and just have a good time with their friends. It was great to see people use it as a space for community building.”
This year, Main House invited an eclectic mix of student groups and organizations from a variety of areas of interest to participate in the event. From mini-pumpkin decorating by Lathrop House Team to Vassar International Students Association’s (VISA) bake sale offering delectable student-made treats like cheesecake and brownies, several orgs contributed to the festive fall theme. Davison House Team had a free popcorn bar that was a major at- tractor, while Main House provided free apple cider donuts, 600 of them no less. This, combined with the “Flannel Fest” dress code of the event, ensuring that everyone was in high spirits over the commencement of this cinnamon-scented time of year.
Main House Team member Izzy Braham ’20 [Full Disclosure: Braham is a columnist for The Miscellany News] further described the vibe: “We wanted the orgs to present interactive, engaging activities and games, so that the different stalls, the live music and the bouncy house all kind of fell in line with what a carnival or a fest is supposed to feel like.” This was certainly the case, with stalls like Magic the Gathering offering card games, and student groups related to Religious and Spiritual Life such as Wholistic offering interactive demos regarding holistic healing.
In addition, Fall Fest offered student artists a platform to sell their work. “This was a new addition,” suggested by Karuga, put in place in order to promote the wide range of artistic talent that we have on this campus. It turned out to be an extremely successful venture that hopefully persists in many more Fall Fests to come.
An air of social consciousness surrounded the event as they extensively stressed support for Hurricane Irma Relief. Main House, orgs like Vassar Haiti Project (VHP) and student artists worked for the cause in different capacities. Main House held a raffle that offered exciting food vouchers and gift cards from venues in Arlington in order to collect donations. They managed to raise over 300 hundred dollars, the proceeds of which will all go to the Caribbean Students Association as they continue to work towards relief.
VHP also raised funds for Haiti hurricane relief by selling art and merchandise that was handcrafted by Haitian artists. Further, while the students making sales had the option to keep the profits, many of them decided to donate their proceeds towards this vital issue. This emphasis on social responsibility and campus responsiveness was heartwarming. It seems likely that it could help steer the tradition of Fall Fest in a direction that focuses not only community building but also community support.
Karuga also commented on how the event was more family oriented and therefore inclusive, this year: “Lots of House Fellows felt comfortable coming to Fall Fest this year too. They came as families, with picnic blankets and everything. The Batman bouncy house was a real delight for their kids.” That being said, the bouncy house was by no means available only for little children; it was a form of therapeutic stress-relief for numerous students, as we find ourselves caught in the thick of midterms. The laughter of fully grown college students as they leapt and bounced inside Batman wafted through the air and added an additional dimension of warmth to the atmosphere.
The musical entertainment was pleasant and relaxing, as a string of various student a cappella groups performed festive favorites Many groups gave their new first-year members the opportunity to perform their first solo, for which a lot of their friends came out to support them. Vassar International Students Association (VISA) member Arjun Singh ’20 remarked, “It was exciting to see so many of the a cappella groups perform together, something we don’t see very often. It was also a very lively atmosphere, especially since new students are always happy to participate in any event.”
One of Vassar’s jazz combos Dijon Balm also performed for an hour at the event. Main House Programming Director, Maya Goodwin ’20, elucidated, “It was really wonderful to have the jazz band playing because it fostered the sense of community we wanted, by creating relaxing, background music which everyone just enjoyed while they basked in the pleasant weather outdoors. Even people who were inside Main Building could hear the music and they decided to come out and be a part of the event. It quite literally brought people together.”
In the same vein, Karuga added, “In general, we were really happy that people came out and just chilled for a decent amount of time rather than simply coming for 15 minutes to see an a cappella group and then leaving, as has happened in the past. We also wanted to move away from the focus on rides, and more towards a focus on people–on a cohesive community. I think there was a little something for everyone.”
The event came to a close as the sun set and the popcorn ran out, but people milled about until the very end, cozying up on the grass, finishing the last of their meals from the food truck and enjoying each other’s company against the backdrop of the majestic Library, just as the tireless Main House team had intended. As an attendee of Fall Fest, Samantha Hodes ’20 concisely elucidated, “It was a much needed break from the stress of midterm week, and it made me feel all happy and warm inside. I liked that we got to just sit on the grass and listen to ambient music and just hang out. It was a wholesome event.”