By Staff Writer Samantha Wahl.
This past Saturday was UMD’s annual Fall Family Festival. In past years, the Festival has been hosted outside the Marketplace, with inflatables, student organization tables, and merchants lined up on the grass. This year, though, was different: the forecast for the day featured rain, and so the Festival prepared itself to be somewhat amphibious. For this reason, the inside of the Campus Center was even more packed than usual: tables that would ordinarily be outside were instead spread out between the Commuter Café and the Student Store. The weather, it turns out, was rather dreary, but that did not seem to dampen any spirits. People still gathered in droves to shop, eat, and watch student performances.
The day began with the sound of music. Vocal performances from Mental Note a Capella and Two of a Kind Crooners received warm reception from the crowd. Two of a Kind, it turns out, is a vocal duet group made up of UMass Dartmouth students Joseph and Robert Oliver III. The Oliver brothers warmed up the crowd with their renditions of sixties standards, while Mental Note sang some more contemporary hits including “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay. Next up came the UMass Dartmouth Dance Team, who wowed the crowd with their energetic, synchronized moves. Rounding out the setlist were soloists Tyler Rebello and Kayla Leffort of the UMass Dartmouth Theater Company, who belted out Broadway hits from Dear Evan Hansen and Mean Girls. And with that, the Festival was begun.
Deep in the Campus Center was the Craft Room. Usually, the Festival’s crafts are done outside; presumably, a grassy field is a more forgiving place for children to paint pumpkins than the tiled floors and tables of a classroom. But the children don’t pay the venue change any mind; just like every year, the craft room is consistently abuzz with kids decorating and, in some cases, being decorated themselves by face-painters. Cotton candy is handed out outside the craft room, ostensibly to fuel more pumpkin-decorating fun.
Between shopping and crafting, celebrants were able to seek out food at one of four vendors. Big Daddy’s Fried Chicken, Gotta Q, and Whoo(pie) Wagon had trucks parked outside; Boston’s own Sausage Guy also made an appearance, serving from underneath a tent. Dining Services also provided soups inside the Commuter Café, while local group The Becky Chace Band serenaded attendees with their bluesy stylings. The Waffle Cabin tent, of course, was extremely popular as well.
Of course, the Fall Family Festival wouldn’t be a true UMass event without representation of UMass Dartmouth student organizations. Engineers Without Borders, the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, and the Pre-Health Society all made appearances.
The Pre-Health Society is a new face at the Festival; initially, The Torch asked if they are a new organization. It turns out they aren’t; president Tony Fares explains to me that within the pre-med program, they are widely known.
The Society assists pre-med students in studying for their medical school admissions tests. They are also committed to public outreach, namely through the Alzheimer’s Buddies Program, and to procuring guest speakers and shadowing opportunities for pre-med students. They are here today selling T-shirts.
Vendors, pushed inside by the threat of rain, make themselves at home just about anywhere they could fit. Wintry accessories like hats, scarves and sweaters can be purchased near the front of the Commuter Café, while handmade items were sold near the Blue and Gold Room.
The Torch spoke to one of the merchants, Janet Potvin, who shared more about her craft. Potvin’s signature is art using natural rocks.
She draws beaks and feet onto them, and using twigs and canvases she watercolors herself, she assembles collage-style scenes of birds. Potvin is excited because this is the first venue she has taken her crafting business, which she calls Night Owl Creations, to in her entire life. She is excited to share her magnets, postcards, and canvases with the community.
Sharing with the community, it would seem, is always a central theme at the Family Festival.
Whether it is their talents, their time (in the case of the countless volunteers that keep events running smoothly), or their resources (in the case of local businesses who provide food and drink), everyone has something to give. The fall spirit has officially arrived to UMassD.
PHOTO COURTESY: SAMANTHA WAHL