It happens once every April.
The temperature warms up, the sun breaks through the clouds, vendors pave the streets, commotion fills the air and several Temple professors are left staring at half-empty classrooms.
When the weather complies, the annual Spring Fling street fair, which includes games, food, music, giveaways and more, creates this type of fervent atmosphere on campus.
This year’s street fair, which marks the 30th anniversary of Spring Fling, kicks off today after inclement weather postponed the celebration last Tuesday.
Many freshmen and transfer students will be experiencing the event, which is firmly embedded in Temple’s culture, for the first time. Temple Student Government Student Life Co-Chair Shanita Taylor said the sight of thousands of students milling about Liacouras Walk and Montgomery Avenue left an impression on her two years ago.
Taylor, a junior marketing and business law major, said she never experienced anything on the scale of a Spring Fling at From The Heart Christian School in Tempe Hills, Md.
“It was an amazing experience for me because I didn’t know that many people existed on Temple’s campus,” Taylor said, laughing. “I didn’t think that many people could fit on one campus.”
Alison Kreitz, the vice president of Main Campus Program Board, was a member of the women’s lacrosse team during her freshman year.
“I was really excited to even be allowed to go to [Spring Fling],” said Kreitz, a senior sports and recreation management major. “I remember after practice [that] I walked through the campus and I didn’t really know what it was about.
“ … There were just so many activities,” she said. “I was really overwhelmed. It was great.”
Taylor and Kreitz, who is also the TSG Student Trustee, were heavily involved with the planning process for Spring Fling this year.
Working with a 20-25 member committee since October, Taylor and Kreitz set out to make Spring Fling more like Homecoming, by expanding the event into a full week of programs, in addition to the street fair.
“Everyone refers to [the street fair] as Spring Fling,” Kreitz said, “We’re just trying to get people in the habit of referring to Spring Fling as ‘Spring Fling: The Week.’”
Programs that were held during Spring Fling week included Relay For Life, a step show, a comedy show and the “Scribble N Dribble” basketball game.
“This is a trip! I love it!”
There was a minimal amount of programs at the first Spring Fling celebrations back in the late 70s and early 80s.
The original Spring Flings – the inaugural event was referred to as “Spring Thing” in an April 1977 edition of “The Temple News” – focused on students performing shows and exhibiting artwork and giving the community the chance to interact with students, Wynda Garrison, the founder of Spring Fling, told “The Temple News” in April 1987.
Things started to change by the mid-80s.
A typical Spring Fling back then included medieval combat and marital arts demonstrations and programs like a volleyball game to benefit Muscular Dystrophy between local television news celebrities and students and a wrist wrestling tournament sponsored by the Miller beer brewing company’s High Life brand.
“This is a trip.” One wrist wrestling spectator told “The Temple News” in 1982. “I love it.”
Concert performances have always been a staple of Spring Fling and past performers included everyone from obscure folk and bluegrass groups to major artists like The Ramones, Cyndi Lauper and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Garrison talked about the differences between the original Spring Flings and later Spring Flings to “The Temple News” in 1987.
“It’s meaning has changed,” she said. “It [used to be] like a Temple day. When we first did Spring Fling it was not geared toward major concerts, it was geared toward Temple talent.”
A number of incidents have caused Spring Fling to undergo significant changes through the years.
In 1989, one person being was thrown through a second floor window and several fights occurred among students and other people on campus.
Former “Temple News” columnist Jennifer Watson called Spring Fling a “booze-a-rama” in 1993 and later stated that as a freshman, she started her first Spring Fling day out with “a mug of beer.” That year, 16 people were charged with illegal possession of alcohol during the festivities.
By the 90s, advertisements were placed prominently in “The Temple News” to remind students that the state Liquor Control Board would be in attendance at that year’s Spring Fling.
In later years, administrators moved the street fair event from Thursday to Tuesday to discourage students from skipping the remainder of the week’s classes.
Increasing Student Involvement
No matter what day it is held, attendance at the Spring Fling street fair has always been exemplary.
But now that Spring Fling has expanded into a week long format, the goal is to get more people involved in all of the events, especially student organizations, Taylor and Kreitz said.
“If we can get the student organizations involved, that means that we can get a good population of the students involved,” Taylor said. “We want to get as many students involved in Spring Fling as possible.
“It creates a better Spring Fling,” she said. “It also allows the organizations to network with each other and showcase themselves.”
A week-long competition was held to help foster student organization involvement. Organizations were given points for attending and completing tasks at certain events during the week.
The Cherry Crusaders, the group that the earned the most points, won $1,000, which will be tacked on to their allocated funds for next semester, in addition to other prizes.
The incentives helped.
Attendance was strong at the step show and “Scribble N Dribble” basketball program. At least 30 organizations signed up for the Relay For Life event and helped raise $21,000 for the American Cancer Association, Taylor and Kreitz said.
There have been a few bumps in the road, though.
A long-proposed student organization parade was shelved because it violated a university noise ordinance that limits the number of times outdoor events with amplified sound can be held on campus, Taylor said.
A concert at the Liacouras Center featuring rapper Ludacris was also canceled.
“I wouldn’t say it was a setback,” Kreitz said about the concert. “It brings you down a little bit but you keep going because you realize the week is going to be great without it.”
Thirty years ago at the inaugural Spring Fling, few people would’ve guessed that the event would grow from a “Temple day” to what is now a full scale week-long extravaganza.
But, at this point, Spring Fling is headed in that direction.
“I think it’s great that we’re making it a whole week’s worth of events,” Kreitz said. “Hopefully, when budget time comes around, they increase our budget because they see that we want Spring Fling to be on the same level as Homecoming.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached @ firstname.lastname@example.org.