Vassar’s Spring Fest hosts local families

Emma Raff/The Miscellany News.

On the afternoon of Friday, April 15, Vassar College and the Town of Poughkeepsie Recreation Department welcomed local families to Joss Beach, where they participated in a slew of spring-themed activities as part of a relatively new tradition: Spring Fest. Children hunted for candy-filled eggs, a local band played everything from “All About That Bass” to “I Will Survive” and student volunteers set up an intricate obstacle course across the lawn—even the Easter Bunny made an appearance. 

The Recreation Department is responsible for maintaining the city’s parks, coordinating youth sports activities and running the Poughkeepsie Senior Center. The partnership between the College and the Department works to generate ideas that will benefit kids and elders in the Poughkeepsie area, occasionally utilizing Vassar’s campus for its beautiful open areas and dining options. 

Executive Director of Vassar Education Collaboration John Bradley, who helped lead and plan the event, described the origins of Spring Fest in a written correspondence, saying, “The Spring Festival was actually conceived by the former House Fellow (Collette Cann) and the house team of Davison House. They received a grant from the Good Neighbors Fund to hold a spring festival, and the Town of Poughkeepsie Parks and Rec Department publicized it.” When asked how this year’s activities were arranged, Bradley responded, “After the COVID closure of the campus and the new house teams feeling they could no longer manage the event, the Town Parks and Rec Department brought the festival back, and last year, the town held the event at Greenvale Park which is about a mile from campus. Some Vassar students volunteered, and the Town Parks and Rec Director inquired whether it could be held again on the Vassar campus, and that’s how the current plan came about.” 

First-year Julia Weinberg [Disclaimer: Weinberg is Assistant Copy Editor for The Miscellany News], who volunteers through Bradley’s Vassar English Language Learners Outreach Program, responded to a Sunday email advertising the event and offered to help out with the festivities. She and other volunteers assisted with the egg hunt, laying out hundreds of eggs over Joss Beach, and managed the Easter Bunny’s stand. “It’s cute because I think some of the little kids really don’t know what’s going on, but some of the older ones are helping them. It’s really very sweet,” she said. Other forms of entertainment included a Picasso-themed arts and crafts booth run by the Loeb and a petting zoo. 

Another student volunteer, Beatrice Messaris ’26, signed up to facilitate the festival through an organization called Engage PK, which connects Vassar students to events that take place in neighboring areas. “I really like being around the kids. That’s probably been my highlight so far, being able to interact with the little guys. They’re just so excitable and it’s finally warm out, and I get it. I’m excited too. You know it’s not really ‘for’ anything for me. I just kinda wanted to [volunteer] so I did.” 

The festival had a great turnout this year, with hundreds of happy kids playing together while their parents took pictures and talked amongst themselves. In regards to the significance of Vassar’s involvement in events such as Spring Fest, Bradley stated, “Vassar has a long-standing relationship with the town on many levels, and its presence in the town is a unique feature, so fostering a relationship opens up the campus to the community for everyone’s benefit…we welcome those opportunities when we are able to do it.” 

The number of student volunteers was also incredibly high this year, with students from dozens of different organizations, groups and teams coming together to set up and participate in the festival. Logan Scott ’24, a Vassar basketball player, spent his time at Spring Fest playing outdoor sports with his teammates and excited kids. When asked how he got involved with the festival activities, he responded, “Our coach, Ryan Mee of the men’s basketball team. He’s super into the community, likes to give back, likes to reach out and really involve kids of the Arlington/Poughkeepsie area in youth sports and just create an opportunity for them to play basketball and get out of the house.” At their coach’s request, players on the team showed up to Spring Fest to teach and play with the kids on an outdoor basketball hoop. Scott appreciates that the festival allowed him to hang out with his teammates and interact with the kids. “I like seeing their smiling faces—just laughing all over the place,” he said.

Following the success of Spring Fest 2023, it’s likely that the festival will become an official annual tradition, hopefully staying close to Vassar’s campus so that students and faculty can continue to take part in the fun. 

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