Celebrate UCI Fails to Showcase Unique Campus Culture

Celebrate UCI, the annual open house festival meant to attract incoming students, has had a disappointing turnout after cutting the Car Show and Wayzgoose (a medieval-style faire that has been losing traction) from its program.

No reasons were given for their removal, although a tab was dedicated to their memories on Celebrate UCI’s homepage. These cuts mark yet another depressing loss of culture at UCI, jumping into the mass grave of old festivals, such as Reggae Fest, that have also been dropped by the university.

Wayzgoose has no definitive origins, although many reports from old UCI websites say that it has had an annual presence at UCI since the school’s inception. While I did not see much medieval pageantry at last year’s Celebrate UCI, it is unfortunate that the school decided to cut it entirely this year rather than attempt to revitalize it. If I had known that it was a faire instead of a fair, I would have definitely dressed the part and adopted a terrible accent to fit the scene.

Celebrate UCI’s homepage notes that the medieval roots of Wayzgoose have faded, but removing it from the program seems like an extreme measure for an event that has the potential to be a lot of fun. With improved marketing (or any marketing), this event could have become an actual event rather than the typical booth crawl we’ve come to expect of festivals such as this.

The Car Show was also abruptly cancelled this year despite seeming rather popular at last year’s festival. People with fancy cars live to show off how much money they pour into their mid-life-crisis-mobiles, and it’s a shame that UCI would rob them of one of the few opportunities they have to do so during the calendar year.

With these two events cut from Celebrate UCI’s schedule, there was not enough entertainment in the park to sustain a day’s worth of discovery. Only the circular patch of grass outside of Rowland Hall had booths set up, featuring only three rows of booths and a stage attempting to fill in the barren park.

While booth-ers did their best to draw the attention of passerbys and liven up the atmosphere of the festival, there were not nearly enough vendors to make the experience feel worthwhile. Food trucks were shockingly absent from Aldrich Park (I had assumed festivals in the park had a “Field of Dreams” relationship with Orange County food trucks, but Celebrate UCI was quick to prove me wrong) and, while the student vendors that did show up had an impressive spectrum of foods to try, more clubs should have come out.

The performance stage was just as underwhelming, featuring a DJ straight out of middle school playing a hilariously eclectic setlist off of his MacBook. After he skipped the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” right before it got to the chorus, I knew this festival was a hostile environment.

Celebrate UCI 2017 ultimately felt like a deflated version of what I had experienced last year. Its publicity has been almost nonexistent, with Facebook and Google searches showing practically no social media pings that the event was even happening. I only heard about this year’s festival from a friend of a friend the day before it started.

It seems that the only people who were invited were incoming freshmen. High school students with acceptance letters and glowing parents in tow were pretty much the only people who came out to the event. It’s confusing that UCI would hold such a disappointing festival and not invite its current student population to fluff it up a bit. The campus did not seem in a celebratory mood, and although there was not much to do, telling current students about the event would have made the campus look livelier and would have left a better impression of UCI on visitors and future students.

UCI has developed a stigma of being a boring school due to Irvine’s lack of a city center. Hosting a disappointing festival only amplifies this belief rather than showing students how much fun can be made on campus.

Celebrate UCI’s disappointing cuts in entertainment left this year’s festival devoid of the scale and culture it has boasted in past years. The school’s refusal to advertise the event combined with its willingness to let traditional events slip out of relevance is harming UCI’s personal history of unique events, making them feel generic rather than bizarrely fascinating as they should be.

I will sorely miss these two events but hope that they will one day come back to Celebrate UCI. Where else am I going to eat a turkey leg and check out hot rods at the same time?

Isaac Espinosa is a second-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at imespino@uci.edu.