Midnight strikes. The SU is packed. Rowdy ball temporarily halts, and the congregation of dancing students temporarily disbands to sit on the ground and turn their attention to a projected video. The countdown begins. Students chitter excitedly, itching to discover what is in store for the long-awaited return of Renn Fayre on April 29 to May 1, 2022. Balloons fall, and the moment has come. The theme of Renn Fayre 2022 is Garden of Pandemonium.
Now that the beans have been spilled, the Quest sat down with Renn Fayre Czars Ana Quintana-Bernal and Percy Petersen, to discuss what to expect during this year’s Renn Fayre.
The Czars, still reeling from the events of theme reveal, maintain an excitement about the theme. The idea was initially based on Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights. Inspired by Bosch, the Czars created a theme that evoked elements of chaos, celebration, and, as the theme suggests, pandemonium. More than this, much of the design plan for this year’s Renn Fayre will surround medieval festivals, fitting to the Renn Fayre name. Ultimately, though, the Czars encourage students to take the theme into their own hands. Quintana-Bernal says, “the themes are supposed to be really vague hence why it’s not exactly the name of the painting, […] because we just want students to be able to interpret it however they want to interpret it.”
Now that the theme has been revealed, Renn Fayre is truly on its way. Renn Fayre’s program for 2022 will bring back many of the traditions that had been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The celebration begins on a Friday with the Thesis Parade, where seniors burn their thesis drafts in front of the library then parade through the Great Lawn and Eliot. Immediately after, partying commences, with numerous events happening around campus throughout the weekend. All weekend, black, blue, green, and white lodges will be open and holding specific events, which are “differently decorated for different vibes” according to Quintana-Bernal.
Another large part of Renn Fayre will be student projects, where students volunteer to create events, activities, structures, or whatever else suits their creativity. Petersen expresses excitement for these projects, saying, “That’s what most of Renn Fayre is: seeing what people come up with, what they want to contribute, and having the rest of the community participating in it.” Quintana-Bernal, on the other hand, is most excited about Feast, where students come together to volunteer to cook dishes during the week leading up to Renn Fayre, and, coupled with alumni’s efforts to smoke meat throughout the week, these dishes are served all of Saturday for students to enjoy.
Students can also get excited about night events like Midnight Surprise, Glow Opera, and Stop Making Sense. During Midnight Surprise, a surprise performer holds a concert at (you guessed it) midnight. Quintana-Bernal describes Glow Opera as, “essentially a group of students write, direct, and perform a play for everybody on one of the nights, and the main aspect is that they glow”. Stop Making Sense will be a two-part ball to the soundtrack of The Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, with the first Stop Making Sense to be held the week before Renn Fayre, and the second Stop Making Sense to be held on Sunday morning, from about 3 a.m. to sunrise, of Renn Fayre. Renn Fayre wraps up with a softball tournament on Saturday and Sunday, open to faculty, student organizations, and any teams that wish to participate.
This year’s Renn Fayre will also be focused on harm reduction and inclusion. The Czars highlight that Checkmates, student volunteers who check wristbands to ensure that Renn Fayre remains closed to the Reed campus, will be receiving training on how to approach situations and individuals in a non-targeting manner. The Czars acknowledge COVID as a key reason for why Checkmates will be deployed, noting that everyone will have to comply with Reed’s vaccination policy and receive a negative COVID test within 72 hours of Renn Fayre. Aside from this, Petersen places inclusion at the forefront of planning, stating “One thing we’re focusing on is […] inclusion, that way it truly is a place where everyone can be celebrated and not just like one concept of what a Reed student or Reed community member is.”
Quintana-Bernal goes on to speak about how Renn Fayre is changing, stating “We’re really trying to take this opportunity to bring back the celebration, like what Renn Fayre has meant to the campus, but aligning with the student body that is current and not the student body of the 60s, which is a very different student body.” The Czars emphasize a reallocation of the budget as an example of how this is to manifest. In the past, up to 70 percent of funds have gone toward Midnight Surprise, but, this year, although a large number of funds will still go to Midnight Surprise, the Czars are shifting focus to student projects, maintaining Renn Fayre as a celebration that serves the students above all else.
As they elucidate all these planning details, Petersen highlights their enjoyment of the planning process, stating, “I really like planning things. There’s something about it that makes my brain tingle.” They go on, saying, “We’re just really excited about the fact that we can do something very tangible and very positive for the student body.”
All of Petersen’s brain tingles have not come without difficulty. Aside from Quintana-Bernal’s long-time struggle learning to spell the word pandemonium, planning Renn Fayre this year has been made much more challenging by the fact that none of the Czars, as well as the vast majority of the student body, have been to a Renn Fayre. Quintana-Bernal describes the process, stating, “it’s kind of like blindly putting together a puzzle, where you can see from really far away what it’s supposed to look like, but you’re expected to get all the details.” The Czars have been in communication with alumni, administrators, and students, as well as searching through archives of old schedules and photos, to develop an understanding of what Renn Fayre is expected to be.
The Czars go on to talk about their rocky relationship with administrators. Amid a tense administration-student relationship, communication between the two has been difficult. Quintana-Bernal states, “There is a reason why admin is involved. But sometimes it’s just hard to get on the same page and communicate the things that we [the Czars] see because we see everything and they see what pertains to each of their departments, so it’s just trying to communicate how things come together.” The Czars explain that the challenge of navigating this relationship is heightened when many administrators also have not been to a Renn Fayre. Regardless, the Czars maintain respect for the role that the administration plays in bringing Renn Fayre to life and continue to work with the administration with a successful Renn Fayre in their sights.
A final challenge that the Czars face is garnering engagement from the student body. Quintana-Bernal explains, “We’re just struggling to get people to want to help and want to be involved because that institutional memory and culture has not been around for a long time.” Petersen then encourages all members of the student body to reach out and volunteer. They highlight the idea of karma, stating, “You do a bunch of volunteering as freshmen and sophomores, and then as a junior, maybe you get a group together and you volunteer to be a sub-czar. […] Then, when you’re a senior, you know all that is going to be taken care of.” They also note that in the past, and the anticipated future, a requirement to become a Renn Fayre Czar is to have volunteered for Renn Fayre in the past. Students can volunteer for one of the lodges, for bagel patrol, for Feast, for events like glow opera, or in creating a student project.
The Czars also emphasize their openness to student opinion; they hold Happy Hour at the Renn Fayre office, located in the SU bong loft, every Friday from 5 to 7 p.m., and look forward to seeing students come in to talk Renn Fayre, express thoughts, or simply say hi. Petersen exclaims, “Come and meet us. Perhaps bring us food and beverages.” Quintana-Bernal urges students to come by, saying, “If the door is ever open, you are welcome to come in, and, if the door is closed, you can knock.”