Over these past two years, life was really put on pause, and those who came to college to experience the everyday person-to-person interactions were robbed. Many of us were forced to do classes over a screen, and almost all of us stayed in the safety of our homes, never really coming out.
Last night, for the first time in two years, UCR was able to host their first large-scale event, with over thousands of students filing in line to get tickets to get into the annual UCR Bonfire. Around the event the school offered free giveaways, with hoodies and various items being dished out to those who were willing to line up in the cold. Aside from this, there were two large, carnival-style rides available, and some various food options available. Those who waited to get a ticket were given a free taco platter provided by the school, while the other two food trucks, the pupusa truck and the funnel cake truck charged students.
Also next to the free giveaway table, Rockstar Energy had a booth where they lined up new flavors of their popular energy drink to give away to students along with free merchandise like lanyards. On the far end of the event was the stage where the school had four performances lined up, starting with the two student DJs at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. and ending the night with the hired acts at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Overall, it seemed to be an event where many students showed up to finally interact with each other and have the college experience many have been craving.
Just like anything though, it seemed like the UCR staff needed to dust off the cobwebs, as this was the first large event in a while, and there were some things that would need improvement in the future. From the beginning, when I first walked into the event, the line was tremendously long, which may be expected. But what had me shocked was the fact that there were no designated areas for the line to corral itself, and the line eventually began wrapping around the whole CHASS building.
As there were a variety of lines, finding the one to get in was a headache in itself, and many students seemed to have wasted their time accidentally waiting in lines which they thought were meant for something else. One of the students I was able to interview in line said she “didn’t understand what some of the lines were for” and that she wished “the school would have provided signs that stated where lines began and what they were for.” Another student in a different line had a similar complaint explaining how he was “having fun with his friends” and didn’t mind the lines because he was with them, but could see how students simply coming to check it out would be turned away from going further in.
After talking to a variety of students about how they liked the event, and what UCR could do to improve future events, everything seemed to follow in a similar fashion with complaints solely being about a disorganized event that had many people confused.
Right before I left the event, I was able to talk to an ASPB staff member working, and she explained how the crowd size for the event was far larger than anything they were expecting. Many of them felt like they were understaffed and overwhelmed. She explained that for what it was, she thought it was going well, but in the future, they should always plan for a bigger number of people so they could be more organized and provide more food options instead of having everyone wait hungry in long lines.
The staff too seemed overwhelmed, and I constantly saw many individuals running around attempting to control the event. On a positive note, when I was able to interview local emergency medical service workers, they seemed confident in their plan for the event, stating how everyone on the medical team was well connected and all corners of the grounds were accounted for. With the recent tragedy at Astroworld, medical staff being confident in their plan and staying alert was really nice to see, and students definitely noticed, with many claiming that they felt safe and did not worry about their safety.
Verdict: In no way was the event a disaster, and students had their praises for what the event was. But moving forward, ASPB should most definitely reach out to students and listen to their concerns so that these events could only be improved in the future.