c/o Jo Harkless, Features Editor

c/o Jo Harkless, Features Editor

If you passed by Russell House on Friday, April 21, 2023, you probably witnessed a lively scene of students laying on the newly-sprouted green grass while listening to vibrant live tunes with stacks of sweet potato tacos in their hands.

Earth Day at the University was extra special this year, with Environmental Studies and English double major Talia Zitner ’23 using her Senior Capstone Project to create the Garden Festival. The festival allowed students to celebrate the Earth, sustainability on campus, and the University’s diverse music scene. The festival featured multiple student vendors, delicious treats, talented musicians, and if I do say so myself, immaculate vibes.

“I knew that I did not want to write a traditional thesis and I had some experience in event planning,” Zitner said. “I worked for the National Cannabis Festival in Washington, DC. which is this crazy 20,000-person event [that] happens every year surrounding cannabis legalization and decriminalization.”

As an Environmental Studies major, Zitner wanted to channel her passion for sustainability into a social and collaborative environment, bringing people from all corners of campus together in one space.

“I decided to do an Earth Day festival [that could] celebrate the sustainability efforts of Wesleyan folks on campus already,” Zitner said. “The goal was to create a low-pressure environment to have conversations about sustainability. I wanted people to be able to have these conversations and have fun.”

After reaching out to Abbi Abraham ’23, Zitner collaborated with The Shed to organize the festival, whose help was crucial to facilitating the musical aspect of the day.

“The Shed is so music-centric, and they know how to [organize music events],” Zitner said. “So, once I had more of an official organization that I could go through to use tools like WesNest and EMS, things became a lot easier. But when it’s just one person, without that kind of actual structure, it’s nearly impossible to figure out how to make something like that happen. So The Shed was really a saving grace in making this work, which is amazing.”

The Argus spoke to one of The Shed’s members, Nicholas Slayton ’24, about his experience in organizing the festival.

“Talia really had a vision of bringing a lot of different groups on campus together with the idea of Earth Day in mind,” Slayton said. “I think that she ended up pulling together a really great group of student organizations on campus, as well as fan favorites like Finn and Lewis Tacos.”

The festival featured multiple talented musicians from the University, as well as visiting musicians Zahara and Billy Woods, who headlined the event.

“It was really fun,” Sadie Cook ’24, a singer from the student band Cat’s Pyjamas, said. “I’m really honored to have been able to help out at this super awesome event. I think we had a good time setting the vibe and hopefully, people liked it.”

Alongside the musicians, the event gave a platform to student vendors who sold their creations. Helen Townsend ’24 advertised the Clay Club to students through the club’s incredible pottery pieces.

“Talia reached out to the Clay Club,” Townsend said. “Me, Matty [Shields ’25], and Eiley [Doyle ’25], are all leaders of the Clay Club, so she reached out and wanted us to sell some clay stuff and/or spread news about the Clay Club.”

The scent of freshly brewed coffee and chicken tacos also filled the air. Cypress Hubbard-Salk ’24 spoke about her experience serving a variety of homemade lemonades outside of Espwesso’s comforting hub in Albritton.

“Last year, we did a lot of these collabs,” Hubbard-Salk said. “We ran a lot of events out of Espwesso. It’s definitely more challenging, but it’s worth it to collab with other students on this campus. [Today,] you can get a rose lemonade, a lavender lemonade. You can also get a matcha lemonade.”

Alongside the student vendors, interns from the Resource Center gave attendees pins and flowers, promoting the idea of approaching environmental justice through an inclusive and multicultural lens.

c/o Jo Harkless, Features Editor

c/o Jo Harkless, Features Editor

“The resource center is a multicultural space on campus that specifically focuses on uplifting FGLI [first-generation, low-income] and [people of color’s] voices,” Aurora Guecia ’25 said. “We are Sustainability & Spirituality interns, so we’re here to bring an environmental justice perspective to the festival.”

The event was a huge success, with students circulating through the festival from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. as they made the most of the sunshine.

“I’m having a blast,” Amanda Swartz ’24 said. “It’s so nice to be with everyone in the sunshine and enjoy the spring with some incredible student music.”

Satisfied with the outcome of the event, Zitner said she was happy to see so many students enjoy themselves while embracing the values of sustainability.

“The best part of doing any event is like the peak of the day when there’s a bunch of people there and everybody looks like they’re having a good time,” Zitner said. “People are eating tacos and they’re thrifting and they’re talking to their friends and they’re just like sitting in the grass and playing soccer and Frisbee and listening to music and it is just that collective camaraderie of college that is such a unique experience.”

Ultimately, Zitner said she hopes that other students take inspiration from pursuing non-traditional capstones that are meaningful to them and don’t feel unnecessarily feel pressured into writing a thesis.

“I would just encourage you to not feel limited,” Zitner said. “I think that there is such a hierarchy in academia…if you wanna be taken seriously, you have to do something like write a thesis. I just think that’s bullshit. You shouldn’t let anyone, or any department, or any of your friends who are gonna write a thesis, make you feel any less smart or capable or brilliant for doing something other than writing a thesis. It’s just as cool and just as valid.”

Eugenia Shakhnovskaya can be reached at eshakhnovska@wesleyan.edu.

Jo Harkless can be reached at jharkless@wesleyan.edu.

Comments are closed