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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 22, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 27
Get Ready for Fall Festival

Ralph Johnson, who heads up the Fall Festival steering committee, overlooks Homewood's Levering Plaza, where many of the events will be held.

Everyone at JHU is invited to new event, set for an October launch

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Freshman feet will still be wet. A chill could be in the air. Still, no reason not to throw a big party. While details will be forthcoming, the date is set for the university's inaugural Fall Festival, a three-day celebratory event to which the entire Johns Hopkins community is invited.

The fledgling event's steering committee, a group that formed this past fall, envisions a carnival-like atmosphere on the Homewood campus featuring games, activities and professional entertainers.

The festival will kick off on Friday, Oct. 1, with an afternoon cookout and culminate on Sunday, Oct. 3, with a large breakfast held in the Glass Pavilion of Levering Hall.

Ralph Johnson, associate dean of student life and chair of the event's steering committee, said that the Commission on Undergraduate Education's final report detailed the need for more community-oriented events, so the timing seemed right to institute this festival. The idea is to create an occasion that will enhance school spirit, help build a sense of community and become a memorable tradition.

Members of the Fall Festival steering committee, from the left: Eric Beatty, Oluwakemi Ajide, James Almond, Ralph Johnson, Ira Young, Kristin McJenkins and Leo Weil. All faculty, staff and students interested in helping to plan activities for the event are invited to an open meeting that will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the Glass Pavilion.

While the event will share some traits with the established Spring Fair, the Fall Festival will be smaller in scale and targeted to just the university population.

"We want to build a sense of pride in Johns Hopkins at the beginning of the academic year," Johnson said. "The main focus is enhancing the sense of community here. Many of the activities and games will be centered around bringing students, faculty and staff together."

Susan Boswell, dean of students, said that Fall Festival is part of the university's effort to build on the fun and excitement that students have during Orientation.

"Too often in the past we have heard from students that there is so much packed into Orientation that it's a real letdown when it's over," Boswell said. "Having a campuswide event just a few weeks into the semester is a great way to give the freshmen an opportunity to get to know lots of other students early on. We have high hopes that the Fallnighter will become a much-looked-forward-to tradition."

The featured stretch of the festival has been dubbed the Fallnighter to encompass all activities scheduled between Saturday afternoon and into early Sunday morning.

Johnson said that the bookends of the event, the cookout and breakfast, are set in stone. The task of the committee for the remainder of the spring term is to brainstorm ideas and nail down the full spate of intervening activities.

To that end, the committee will hold an open meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 24, in the Glass Pavilion. Johnson said that anyone who wants to learn more about the festival or join one of the planning group's subcommittees is encouraged to attend. The subcommittees are publicity, logistics, student organization involvement, faculty/staff involvement, special events and fund raising.

A list of activities already being considered includes a campuswide scavenger hunt, sack races, an outdoor movie, open mic night, a headliner comedy act and television game show parodies. Many of the activities will take place in and around Levering Plaza, Johnson said.

"The idea is to have as many sequential and simultaneous activities going as we can to attract the largest number of people," Johnson said. "We will also have team-oriented competitions and events in which the teams need to have student, faculty and staff representation. We want people to come away saying they had a lot of fun, but also that they got to know people in our community and maybe broke down a barrier or two. And we certainly want students to feel really good about their choice to come to Johns Hopkins."

A varsity football game and men's and women's soccer matches are scheduled for that weekend, and Johnson said the committee is trying to tie the games into the festival.

The committee hopes to decide on a tentative schedule of events by the end of the current term, with Aug. 1 as the target date for finalizing them.

Johnson, who attended the University of Alabama as an undergraduate, said he fondly recalls his school's fall festival, the Red Eye, and wants Hopkins students to share similar memories.

"I can tell you that the students we are already working with are very excited about this festival," he said. "They can't wait."

To join the Fall Festival planning committee, contact Johnson at or call 410-516-2224.


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