UC San Diego’s 33rd annual Sun God Festival, this year themed the “Greatest Festival on Earth,” was part musical rendezvous and part lively carnival. The student-curated daylong music festival drew 15,000 attendees from across campus to RIMAC field on Sunday evening for performances by national touring acts, amusement rides and an opportunity to unwind with friends.
This year’s festival offered students a variety of activities, from carnival games to energetic musical performances and a beer garden. Hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg headlined the event, taking the stage wearing an SDSU sweatshirt, a possible faux pas. The lineup also included a performance by Jhené Aiko, who at one point shared that fun doesn’t have to be about drugs and alcohol; it’s about “love for life, love for another person.” And students jammed on their air guitars when OK GO began playing their chart topper, “Here It Goes Again.”
The North Stage featured UC San Diego Battle of the Bands winner Craig Marker and DJ Battle winner RNA and nearly a dozen other UC San Diego student performances such as Kunfusion dance team, Wushu and Acamazing, a co-ed a cappella group. And aerial silk dancers shape-shifted in the middle of the field while acrobats on power stilts hopped around.
Students dressed for the occasion in cat ears and floral coronets and some sought to stand out from the crowd with gladiator helmets, neon tutus, even juggling pins. They crisscrossed the field, running with open arms to embrace friends, laughing and dancing. Many staked out a spot in the grass where they could listen to the music and snack on southern fried chicken sticks, carne asada fries, funnel cakes and other festival food.
In between musical sets, students surveyed the festival from a bird’s eye view on top of the Ferris wheel, a bright beacon on the cloudy evening. Others opted for more of a thrill on the “Kamikaze,” or traversed the tricky mirrors of the fun house. There were also numerous carnival games to take part in, from a football toss to stand-a-bottle and ball bounce.
“We are pleased students enjoyed the festival,” said Juan González, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, who chaired the Sun God Festival Health and Safety Task Force comprised of students, faculty and staff. “My thanks goes out to all the members of the task force who worked hard to make this festival fun, engaging and safe for our students.”
A new festival model was introduced this year to promote the health and safety of all attendees. Similar to other large music festival entrances, drug recognition experts and security staff were present to intervene with any intoxicated students and ensure a drug-free space. In addition, a no re-entry policy was upheld as well as a no-guest rule in residential housing over the weekend.
“The no reentry policy makes sense. We can see they are trying really hard to make it safe, and we appreciate it,” commented Mhairi and Nicole, sophomores. “We’d rather this than see the festival eliminated completely. We want it to continue.”
In addition, more than 500 students—double the number from last year—were trained as “floaties,” a free educational program that teaches how to set and know your alcohol limits and skills to keep friends “afloat.” The workshops were led by UC San Diego Student Health Services and instructed students on ways to party safer, identify high risk situations, how drugs and alcohol affect the body and behavior, and other tips on keeping their friends and peers safe during the festivities.
“I know there was a lot of concern leading up to this year’s festival. I don’t think anyone wants anyone getting hurt. We are happy they are trying to make it safer,” said Fayth and Rebecca, seniors at ERC who have attended four festivals. “I feel our campus is safe relative to other schools; we don’t have many alcohol-related incidents. We haven’t seen many out-of-control people this year. Hopefully the festival continues. It contributes to student life and school pride.”
Multiple weekend events were held leading up to the festival to offer opportunities for all students to socialize and get involved in campus life in safe environments where drugs and alcohol were not the primary source of fun. On April 30, students gathered for the Moon God Full Moon 5K, an annual race hosted by UC San Diego Athletics to support student leadership programs. At the second annual Filmatic Festival, hosted by UC San Diego’s ArtPower! from April 30 through May 3, students explored the intersection of film, science and technology in a series of events that included virtual reality demonstrations, one of the first public viewings of 8K digital film, screenings from the “slow art” movement and more.
On Saturday, May 2 the campus and local community gathered for the 5th Annual Powwow to learn about and celebrate Native American history, culture and traditions. Organized by the UC San Diego Native American Student Alliance, the event theme was “Honoring Our Ancestors,” and included a grand entry parade and ceremony honoring veterans. Later that night, students got their groove on in Zumba and line dancing sessions, competed in a human foosball game, browsed interactive wellbeing activity booths and more at the Good Life Festival, held by UC San Diego Health and Well-being. Also on Saturday, more than 500 attended the sold-out TedxUCSD, a student-run event featuring distinguished speakers from across the country, sharing their “ideas worth spreading” and giving their own unique perspective on this year's theme, “In Search Of...”
This year, the Sun God Festival concluded at 8 p.m. For many students, midterms and morning classes awaited. “In the past, the festival has been late night with more people. This year, there was more of a mellow feel, like a carnival,” said Jimmy, a senior who has attended five festivals, as he waited in line for the Kamikaze ride. Looking up at the massive mechanical arms that spin passengers 360 degrees through the air he remarked, “I like heights; it looks fun!”