On a blazing hot Thursday at 2 p.m., eager and hungry students lined up by the student recreation center to attend one of the first ASPB events of the school year: the Highlander Poolooza. Dressed in complete swim attire and even everyday attire, students of all years were motivated to attend through the promise of free tacos from El Ojo de Agua and soft serve from our very own Moo Moo Truck (limited supply).
After a 15-minute delay resulting in an anxious mob of people, security finally gave the clear for us to move into the pool area, where we were greeted by inflatable swans, a small photo booth area, the Moo Moo Truck and a rock climbing wall. Multitudes of other tents were also littered around the lawn surrounding the pool, offering a variety of free items such as caricatures and flash tattoos. Small crowds gathered near the lounge chairs, casually chatting under the cool shade of large, blue umbrellas with their soft serve, disappointed that the tacos wouldn’t be ready until 3 p.m.
The wafting scent of sizzling, spiced meats and large barrels of assorted agua frescas being carted over to a tent by the entrance seemed to distinguish the main attraction of the event: the free tacos. An impatient, hungry crowd of Highlanders rushed toward the booth to join the seemingly endless line. The savory aroma of the tacos on the grills and the heavenly thought of ice-cold beverages only seemed to prolong the wait as temptation overcame us. Fifth-year public policy major Ogechi Opara pointed out that she “looked forward to the free food and ice cream the most” as she neared the front of the line. Expecting free tacos was most likely the main reason students were willing to bear the treacherous heat.
The enduring wait for the tacos was undoubtedly rewarding. Students strolled away from the tent with not only a bountiful plate filled with Spanish rice and beans, pickled veggies, three assorted tacos, and a refreshing cup of a sweet, chilled agua fresca, but also a wide, teeth-baring smile. Some returned to their previously claimed spots on the lounge chairs under the soothing shade to slowly enjoy their meal and company, while others quickly gobbled it down before exploring other aspects of the Highlander Poolooza.
With only two artists and an abundance of students desiring a unique, blown out-of-proportion self-portrait, yet another lengthy line filed alongside a tent on the grassy lawn. It wasn’t long before the row of people waiting for caricatures had to be cut short — probably from the cramping hands of the artists, as they hurriedly, yet masterfully drew out the diverse faces of UCR’s student body.
Others decided to take advantage of the other attractions, and visited the classic bean bag toss or chose from an ample array of fancy, metallic temporary tattoos. Highlanders also waited to spin the wheel located at the ASPB tent for a free prize of a water bottle, bag, sunglass or even a pair of ear buds, while some did flips off of the daring diving board into the cool and refreshing pool to soothe the burn of the heat.
The Highlander Poolooza “was just the event I needed to transition into yet another great school year with my friends,” explained second-year creative writing major Alexandria Mendez. Though the free food and giveaways brought most of the appeal, it was the lively and enthusiastic atmosphere that brought together our students yet again. Highlanders received the chance to socialize and celebrate a new academic year with others while relieving themselves of the stress and pressure that may also come with being tossed back into a hectic school year.