A shorter, tamer Springfest

By Amy Lieberman

After dealing with budget cuts and a scheduling conflict with United Nation Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s visit on Apr. 22, Springfest, Macalester’s annual daylong music festival, will look, and possibly sound, noticeably different this year, due to a condensed time frame and an entirely local band lineup.

Springfest, which is scheduled for Friday, Apr. 21, from 4 to 8 p.m., according to Springfest chair Spencer Edelman ’06, is merely one part of a larger weekend long occasion. CHEEBADANZA, student organization CHEEBA’s marijuana decriminalization festival, will be held on Apr. 20; Earth Day festivities will coincide with Springfest on Friday, Annan will speak on Saturday morning, at 10 a.m.

Edelman recognized the legitimacy of Annan’s appearance interfering with Springfest, for which festivities normally commence on Saturday morning and continue indefinitely into the evening.

“I understand,” Edelman said. “Kofi is a busy fellow.”

But on top of scheduling conflicts, budget errors have left the Springfest committee with limiting funds. In Dec. 2005, the Program Board (PB) allocated Springfest $37,500. But at the end of last semester, the PB discovered that while it thought it had a positive rollover of $15,000 from the 2004-05 school year, it really had a negative rollover of $15,000. As a result, Springfest is now left with only $23,000.

And as some costs, such as stage equipment and security, are unavoidable, cuts will be brought to novelties and bands.

This year, local groups The Hopefuls, Hetacomb, New Primitives, Kontrast and White Light Riot will take the stage Edelman said $6,000 will go to the bands.

In the past, when Springfest had more funding, it brought in bigger names. Brother Ali performed at last year’s Springfest; in 1990, when Springfest was operating under a $38,000 budget, Yo La Tengo played; Springfest 2000, the Black Eyed Peas.

Originally, talk of having the Big Wu and WookieFoot, two more well-known Minnesota jam bands, perform this year’s Springfest was stirring, but according to Edelman, issues of time, and not money, prevented the committee from booking the bands.

Still, Springfest won’t be unrecognizable and most of its staples will remain intact, including a beer garden— 20 kegs of Summit beer will be available, cups sold at $3, $1 for refills— a bouncing castle, adult tricycles, and a Velcro jumping wall.

Once the beer garden closes at 7:30 p.m., a bonfire is planned to ensue on Shaw Field, Springfest’s slated location, as long as the weather permits.

Edelman acknowledged the difference a shorter time frame will make.

“”It isn’t eight hours of craziness,” he said. “It’s much shorter. But I hope people don’t think that just because it is a Friday it should be like this always. It’s just a crazy situation.”

But Springfest committee member Alissa Buckingham ’08 said she thought shortening Springfest might actually increase student interest.

“It seems like no one stayed the whole day [in past years],” she said. “It’s too much, too long. This will work out a lot better. It’ll turn into Friday night parties, but people will have renewed energy.”

Buckingham also addressed the changing nature of Springfest over time, and specifically, the lack of student interest in Springfest, and in PB events, that she has witnessed.

“Students say Springfest is going downhill,” she said. “They’ve lost interest, I suppose. The planning committee is doing just as well, but it isn’t coming together as it should. It’s hard to get people excited and to get anything to become campus wide.”

According to a 1984 Springfest pamphlet, the tradition of Springfest was started in 1973, debuting in a more impromptu and wild form.

“On a sunny Saturday in May 1973 a beer truck pulled up to the south entrance to the Kirk Courtyard,” the pamphlet reads. “It delivered 37 kegs for the day’s celebration of the coming of Springfest. It was a big outdoor party, plain and simple.”

Geography professor David Lanegran ’63, who began teaching at Macalester in ’69, has never attended a Springfest, but recalled the chatter its birth sparked.

“There was a great deal of concern,” he said, “particularly from people outside of the community about the message it sent about the campus. People were afraid of kids getting drunk, throwing up, car accidents and fights. All the usual that goes with alcohol.”

But, as he said, Springfest didn’t turn out to be the “Frankenstein monster people made it out to be.”

In general, Lanegran noted Springfest’s general progression into a tamer, more subdued occasion, in part, he said, because of the changing student body.

“Students are a lot more serious than they were, even in the 80s,” he said. “People are doing more work and are more into their goals.”

Geography professor Laura Smith ’94 said she didn’t attend Springfest until her senior year, but agreed with Langeran about the vibe’s evolution.

Smith recalled the ’94 event as a success, packed with students, including streakers who played Frisbee in broad daylight.

Edelman also spoke of a more recent Springfest story involving students climbing into a sound equipment van with the setup workers, and then emerging from a “billow of smoke.”

Now, though, Smith said the same antics probably wouldn’t occur. In exchange, though, Macalester students have more conventional events, like the Founders’ Day Ball and the senior reception- both of which, she said, students of her class wouldn’t have embraced.

“The whole campus now is a little more constrained,” Smith said. “Then, it was much more anti-establishment. People didn’t want to get dressed up for a thing like Founders’ Day.”

The 1984 Springfest pamphlet also refers to Springfest as “the biggest event on campus all year…the culmination of an era,” a description that strays from what students today say about their Springfest experiences.

Edinam Agbenyeke ’07 said he has attended Springfest the past two years, and both events were poorly attended. “People knew, they just didn’t go,” he said. “Also, the weather hasn’t been too kind…that’s the biggest thing.”

Eva Kuhn ’08 also said the rumors she had heard of crazy Springfest antics didn’t hold true. But, she also cited the rain as a fault on the day.

“I was under the assumption that you had to be messed up all day and it just didn’t work out,” she said. “I was disappointed, mainly because I didn’t know any better.”

Agbeyeke said that having Springfest on a Friday might be a good idea, even though students will probably skip class and start drinking early.

The issue of Annan’s 10 a.m. speech may also pose a problem to some students looking to stay out late on Friday night, but as Edelman said, Springfest should still be “ridiculous.”

“I encourage everyone to have a fun and safe time,” he said. “Don’t worry about Kofi. You can listen while hung-over.”