c/o Eden Porter

c/o Eden Porter

On Saturday, April 27, the Garden Festival returned to campus for its second year. Greeted by warm weather, members of the Wesleyan community gathered behind Russell House to celebrate sustainability.

Last Spring, the festival was introduced as a part of the Senior Capstone of Talia Zitner’s ’23. This year, it returned as a result of the hard work of the Environmental Solidarity Network (ESN) and The Shed, with support from the Bailey College of the Environment. Other organizations involved with organizing included The Resource Center, the Wesleyan Refugee Project, the Wesleyan Local Co-op, Long Lane Farm, and the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP). ESN Coordinator and primary organizer of the event this year Annie Volker ’24 spoke to The Argus about the event.

“This was a phenomenal showcase of all the work students do on campus,” Volker said. “[Last year, the festival] was just an amazing celebration of community, of sustainability, of music, all these great things that Wesleyan has, and I think it was just too beautiful a day not to recreate again.”

The Garden Festival created space for people to come together to celebrate collective accomplishments.

“There’s a lot of student and staff work that goes into supporting sustainability [and] community that doesn’t really get recognized,” Volker said. “So I think this is just a great celebration of all these amazing things that happen and don’t necessarily get the clout.”

Dylan Campos ’24, who tabled for Sunrise Wesleyan at the event, spoke to the common spirit that the event cultivated.

“It’s not only a celebration of community, but [also] a celebration of our community celebrating the Earth,” Campos said. “[April is] Earth Month, Earth Day was this past week, and I think it’s really important that Wesleyan and Middletown come together and have some fun. It’s a beautiful day.”

c/o Eden Porter

c/o Eden Porter

Enveloped by the warm rays of the sun and the sound waves of an energetic array of student bands, members of the University community gathered, tapping into their creative side by making use of The Resource Center’s painting materials and the Sunrise table’s screen printing.  One student performance group was High Street Standards, a jazz collective at the University co-founded by Bella Rosenblatt ’26.

“I think the Garden Festival is awesome because it’s pretty different [from] other types of student band performance [events] at Wesleyan,” Rosenblatt said. “There’s not a lot of music that goes on during the day and so I think it’s a really cool opportunity for what my band does, which is jazz.”

Beyond the music and artistic opportunities, attendees also explored the many creations of vendors, from jewelry, baked goods, handcrafted coffees, and local produce. The proceeds of these tables largely went to the organization Cultivating Justice, a community-based organization addressing issues ranging from food security to land access. Among the University community members at the festival was Associate Director of the JCCP Diana Martinez, who tabled for Cultivating Justice and the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice.

“Today [I am] tabling [for] Katal and Cultivating Justice,” Martinez said. “Our work with criminal justice reform, cutting the prison population, shutting down prisons, and investing that funding in things that people actually need, like food and housing and health care [is really important].”

Looking to next year, the organizers are hoping to solidify the event as a campus tradition.

c/o Eden Porter

c/o Eden Porter

“I’m really grateful that we put in the work [in] this year to build a lasting organization in the Environmental Solidarity Network that can [amplify] student power,” Volker said. “We started because we saw a general lack of student organizing around environment and environmental justice, sustainability, stuff like that. So [I’m really glad that] we built a lasting organization that can continue this on.”

This year’s event will be a tough one to beat, as the organizers enthusiastically built on last year’s success to capture the vibrant spirit of the University community, backdropped by the beauty of springtime.

“The Garden Festival is a super beautiful culmination of a spring awakening,” Martinez described, “But also this really nice intersection of where the arts and food and community sort [of come together], which is really what Cultivating Justice really cares about.”


Vivian Redmond can be reached at vredmond@wesleyan.edu.

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