Urban colleges throw down when the year winds down.
If movies like National Lampoon’s Animal House, Back to School and PCU have taught us anything, it’s that college students like to party—endlessly. No matter when your eyes hit this sentence, odds are there’s a raucous, alcohol-fueled shindig unfolding in someone’s cramped dorm room (yours, perhaps?). The most lavish bashes, however, tend to happen when the weather warms up, the academic year begins to wind down and, most important, usually stingy schools open up their plump pocketbooks and foot the bill for a year-end party. Unfortunately, entry to each school’s festivities is usually limited to students of that institution and their guests. Our advice? Be sure to make friends on these campuses.
As sprawling student showcases go, it’s difficult to compete with Manifest. During finals week, in its various buildings in the South Loop, every department at Columbia College shows off the creative chops of its graduating class. The end result is a parade of dancers, giant puppets and eye-catching floats called Spectacle Fortuna; an exhibition and sale of student art and photography; a site-specific performance-art series; short-film and animation screenings; a fashion show; lectures and symposiums on everything from art history to journalism; and readings of essays and poetry. Best of all, most (but not all) of the events are free and open to the public. Students step out of the spotlight in the late afternoon and evening to take in the student-only main stage musical performances, which, in recent years, have included big name acts like Common, Buddy Guy and retro rockers the Detroit Cobras.
The major appeal of FEST, held on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus a week-and-a-half before final exams, is its always impressive music lineup. The university’s student-elected organizing committee, the DePaul Activities Board (DAB), is usually savvy enough (or just plain wealthy enough) to pull together a diverse, crowd-pleasing bill. Last year, students paid $7 per ticket to see the Starting Line, Ben Kweller and the Roots take the stage in the school’s grassy quadrangle. “We try to tap into the different cultures and tastes at DePaul and really try to bring in what the students want to see,” says DAB chairman Jamie Klein. Other draws include the beer garden (21 and over only, folks), and catered eats like hamburgers, hot dogs and barbecue-chicken sandwiches. Last year, DePaul partied late into the night when DAB planned an additional comedy show in the Athletic Training Center, which featured Horatio Sanz and members of the Upright Citizens Brigade.
Lacking the extravagance of Manifest and the deep pockets of FEST, Loyola’s student-only Spring Fling has a low-key charm all its own. “It’s really meant to be a day for students to relax and breathe before having to study for their exams,” says Frank Lattyak, mainstage chair of the Campus Life Union Board, the body that organizes Spring Fling. As students finish their last day of classes before finals, they are greeted outside various buildings on the school’s Rogers Park campus with free massages. “The masseuses were really nice and professional, too—no happy endings,” Lattyak says, laughing. For the past two years the entertainers have been singer-songwriter Stephen Kellogg and American Idol–alum Josh Gracin—artists certainly more popular with the khakis-and-sandals contingent. However, the free grilled food and iPod raffle make up for the major musical missteps.
Held on the Saturday before Memorial Day, Dillo Day is an all-day concert on a large plot of lakeside land known as the Lakefill. Last year’s bill included Cake, the Roots and Lupe Fiasco; while recent years’ performers include Ben Folds and OutKast. Though no alcohol is served on the festival grounds (“to curb accidents,” says cochair of Dillo Day’s planning committee, Andrea Hart). It’s doubtful the booze is missed with the abundance of drug-free distractions: pizza, grilled foods, Dippin’ Dots, break-dancers, a plane ticket raffle, a free hookah tent and henna tattoos. Hart says, “It’s the day we most act like a state school.”
For more information on Columbia’s Manifest visit manifest.colum.edu; for DePaul’s FEST go to dab.depaul.edu; for Loyola’s Spring Fling visit luc.edu/depts/campusrec; and for Northwestern’s Dillo Day go to groups.northwestern.edu/mayfest.