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Triton Fest Brings Laughs, Scares and Fun Dares

Sanford Center

Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

New fall tradition pairs unique entertainment with education about partying safely

UC San Diego’s newest tradition—Triton Fest—had students dancing to a silent disco, running from zombies, racing go-karts and tackling inflatable obstacles in superhero costumes. More than 7,300 students attended the fall kickoff experience, which was held the first three Friday and Saturday nights in October. The free late-night events offered an opportunity for all students to socialize and get involved in campus life early in the academic year.

Each weekend, a different area of campus was transformed—Warren Mall turned into a streetside cinema, the eucalyptus grove in the center of campus became a terrifying trail of the dead and Rupertus Way in Town Square morphed into a go-kart grand prix race track. The large-scale events were designed to offer students a positive social outlet, where drugs and alcohol don’t have to be the primary source of fun. Hosted during peak social hours, between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., each event integrated an interactive educational component about partying responsibly.

“Triton Fest is an exciting new social opportunity for all students to meet, mingle and have fun as a campus community,” said Juan González, vice chancellor for student affairs. “The unique events provided a chance to build friendships and foster school spirit early in the academic year.”

The series was organized by the University Events Office in collaboration with campus partners, including all six colleges, Associated Students, UC San Diego Health Promotion, University Centers and the Center for Student Involvement: Greek Life. The event began Oct.10 with the Triton Obstacle Challenge, which led students through a mile-long course fraught with inflatable obstacles around every corner. After jumping, climbing, and sliding their way to the finish line, participants were met with a celebration on Sun God Lawn that featured DJs and dancing, a human foosball game and giant twister, as well as a portable graffiti wall and free food.

“Triton Fest allowed students to get to know their campus in a different light—not only as an educational institution, but also as a space where enjoyable experiences can be made,” said Jessy Nguyen, a UC San Diego junior who secured student volunteers for the events as chair of the Muir Volunteer Program. “Having an event series in the fall lets students experience the fun side of UC San Diego earlier in the year.”

On Oct. 12 at the UC San Diego Grand Prix in Town Square, students sped around in go-karts along a course lined with tires. When they weren’t behind the wheel, they played arcade games and life-sized board games such as Jenga, checkers, air hockey and ping pong. The night was capped with a silent disco—energetic beats from two live DJs were streamed wirelessly into students’ personal headphones via their smart phone. A passerby would hear nothing, yet those who were in-the-know could tune in and dance the night away.

“The scale of this series is entirely new to our campus,” said Alex Kushner, director of the University Events Office. “We wanted to be unique, to pique student’s excitement, and give them the chance to feel like a kid again.”

San Diego favorites were presented at the Streetside Cinema, held Oct. 17—including feature flicks Anchorman and Guardians of the Galaxy, a concert by local band Finish Ticket and free food such as grilled cheese and barbecue parfaits. The next day, students returned to cast their vote in the Taco Throwdown—the coveted title was won by local food truck Famoso. To kick off the night, indie singer/songwriter Josh Damigo and folk rock native Paul Cannon entertained the crowd while they snacked on appetizers nachos and churros.

Photo by Alwin Szeto/UC San Diego Publications

“Having three back-to-back weekends of diverse events was amazing,” said Bryant Lim, a UC San Diego senior and public relations assistant at the Associated Students Graphic Studio.

“This marathon really enlivened the start of the year in an unprecedented way. It not only brought students together, but it offered enough variety to ensure that there would be at least one event for everyone.”

Each of the events featured an interactive display or game that engaged students in learning about safe party habits. Many ventured into the RADD car—provided by College is RADD, a California College DUI awareness program—where UC San Diego student health advocates quizzed students on trivia questions regarding drunk driving. Another display titled “Not All Beer is Created Equal” compared one can of light beer with one pint of various other beers, informing students about alcohol content levels and how to prevent alcohol poisoning. Students even shared their plans for a safe Halloween on chalkboards in a photo booth.

“We want to help students be informed about drug and alcohol use,” said González. “These events were a perfect forum to broach the subject, and they were a huge success.”

Partnering with Family Weekend on Oct. 24, Triton Fest organizers treated students and families to laughs at the Comedy Fest, which included two shows and four performers. The first set was headlined by comedy magician Justin Wilman, known for hosting Cupcake Wars and for his appearances on the Tonight Show and Ellen. YouTube sensation Bo Burnham took the spotlight in the second set with a blend of stand-up comedy, improvisation and unique musical performances. The event also featured laughs from Andy Haynes, a comedian from New York City who has appeared on NBC’s Last Comic Standing; and Esther Povitsky, an actress and comedian who has been featured on MTV and Comedy Central.

The series culminated in a Halloween-themed Haunted Hoedown complete with line dancing, free barbecue and carnival games. During the night, students could wander into the eucalyptus grove and brave the Trail of the Dead. Met by a foreboding sheriff, they ventured through a barn and out into the woods, dodging student-zombies and other terrors of the night.

“I think the events really brought the campus together, especially students new to UC San Diego,” said Thomas Forter, a UC San Diego senior and president of the UC San Diego Inter-Fraternity Council. “It provided events every weekend that allowed suitemates to come out and meet new people from other colleges that they may not have met otherwise.”

Funded by the Student Fee Advisory Committee and executed in just two months, Triton Fest brought together students and staff from the six colleges as well as resources from Student Affairs, A.S. Graphic Studio, The Zone, UC San Diego Recreation, the Non-Resident Student Center and more.