This past weekend Vassar brought back one aspect of pre-pandemic life: the Halloweekened Noyes tent experience. A rave that attracts students of all classes donning their prepared costumes, the return of the Noyes tent marked the campus coming one step closer to pre-pandemic life. Campus was also host to a variety of other Halloween activities, such as the pumpkin patch, Halloween dance and trick-or-treating at President Bradley’s house.
“It was super nice to return to the party scene after a few years of quarantine,” said Isabel Yu ’25. “I especially had fun at the Coco and Clair Clair concert on Friday and the Noyes tent Saturday. I was happy the school was still able to safely put things together this weekend.”
Vassar Student Association (VSA) and Big Night In (BNI) organized the annual celebratory weekend activities within the health restrictions.
“It was such a relief to be closer to normalcy,” said Noura Lamb ’24, an attendee of several Halloweekend events. “To be able to be with friends without so much pressure and anxiety, it was an incredible improvement to last year. In my mind, last year doesn’t even quite feel like Halloween,” she added.
VSA Chair of Programming and Traditions Adriana DeLuca ’22 played the key role in laying out the weekend’s agenda. The VSA organized the Friday Halloween Dance with BNI and Social Dancing, the Pumpkin Patch with the Alumni Association at Vassar College (AAVC) and Saturday’s tent on Noyes Circle with Vassar College Sound Systems.
“It’s a little bit more difficult this year just because we don’t have virtual events, they’re all in-person,” DeLuca said. “Getting people to help out around their schedules is tough, but I think it’s just a lot bigger than it was last year,” she explained. DeLuca also expressed concern that the sophomore class missed out on Halloween last year. “We have technically like two classes who had not yet experienced a full-blown Vassar Halloweekend,” she added.
Lamb elaborated on DeLuca’s sentiments, expressing that sophomores are having so many first-year experiences now because the pandemic upended routine. “At this point I’m not actually sure what normalcy is, but to be able to be with friends without so much pressure and anxiety felt like a relief and as close to normal as I can imagine,” Lamb said. “Last year there was a certain pressure or stress, somewhat unspoken, that parties would be discovered or COVID-19 would spread, and this year it feels so much lighter and easier,” she added.
President and Treasurer of BNI Annabel Azaro ’23 commented, “Preparing for Halloweekend takes a long time, but it is always worth it once we have everything set up and people can enjoy themselves.”
BNI specifically works each year to hold substance-free events for the entire campus community, including the BNI Alternative Event to the Noyes tent Saturday night.
“I think it’s important to have a space for people who want to have fun without the pressure of alcohol and drugs,” Azaro said. “We try to create a safe and welcoming environment that is still super fun and exciting.”
Azaro stressed the importance of health and safety guidelines during celebrations this weekend. “To keep things safe during COVID, we spread out our events to more rooms and kept food wrapped individually,” she explained. “It was really important to us to stay safe and still have fun.”
VSA also organized the Pumpkin Patch, in conjunction with AAVC for the second year, where students could pick from 400 pumpkins to paint, carve or decorate on the Chapel Lawn.
According to DeLuca, the VSA recommended that students wear masks at the dance party in the tent at Noyes Saturday night, though mask wearing wasn’t required because the tent was outdoors. “I honestly didn’t see many masks in the crowd,” said Yu. She explained, “I still felt safe, but it definitely felt like a change from what we were used to with COVID-19.”
Dean Carlos Alamo-Pastrana also emphasized that the College was still cognizant of the health risks of sponsoring large gatherings. “We always want to be mindful of and avoid possible outbreaks,” he explained. “Coming off of Fall Break, we felt more comfortable with the event given that everyone had their first round of testing done before the events last week… We also know that gatherings for large groups are much safer outside, so we widened multiple exits/entrances of the tent to be wider than normal, so there was greater airflow in the space. The Town determined the tent’s capacity as they inspect all tents before they are used. Lastly, we also had Campus Safety and Crowd control present monitoring the capacity throughout the event so we did not go over our capacity,” he added.
While historically Halloweekend has been a big party weekend for students, Dean Luis Inoa released an email Saturday, Oct. 31,informing the community that an unusually high number of students were hospitalized due to intoxication on Friday night. “What we are asking is that if you are drinking tonight, that you do your part to understand your Blood Alcohol Content, and consider drinking one less to reduce risk and minimize the need for medical support,” Inoa wrote.
Alamo-Pastrana explained that the nature of gatherings after stricter social distancing could be a reason for the higher number of hospitalizations. “We understand that after almost two years of limited social gatherings some students are still learning about alcohol and how their bodies respond to it,” he said. “While the Office of Health Promotion and Education had already done a considerable amount of educational work leading up to Halloween, we thought that given the number of transports on Friday night, that it would be worth sending students a reminder and some additional educational materials,” he added.
DeLuca expressed hopes that this weekend was a nice reprieve for students. “This is a time for people to really get together with their friends, dress up, do things they maybe wouldn’t usually do, and just get to have more fun,” she said.
For Manal El Achraoui ’25, these hopes were realized. “The vibe was fun, and I enjoyed being able to get out and do something new each day.”