Though turnout was not as high as in previous years, Old Campus opened its gates to hundreds of New Haven residents and students alike this Saturday in celebration of the annual Communiversity Day.
The four-hour outdoor event, hosted by the national service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, was meant to expose city residents to the variety of community services available to them through groups at Yale. It featured various children’s activities, ranging from a moon bounce to performances of “The Three Little Pigs” to an inflatable planetarium, intermixed with different cultural displays and performances.
Daniel Katz ’08, president of the Yale chapter of APO, said the event was designed to improve town-gown relations and to reach out to the community.
“It’s about bringing the community to Yale, because New Haven residents do not always feel as welcome to Yale as they think residents of a university community should be,” he said.
Roughly 1,000 people attended the event, Katz said, a lower figure than in prior years. But he said he was still pleased with the turnout, as the group had expected to draw 1,000 to 1,500 people.
Katz is a former staff reporter for the News.
Erin Gustafson of the Office of International Students and Scholars, which helped organize Communiversity day, said the appeal of the event was mostly a combination of good weather and residents’ curiosity about services available to them.
“[It’s] being outside and seeing what’s here and meeting new people,” she said. “On a day like today, you just can’t not have fun.”
Although Mayor John DeStefano and Bruce Alexander, Yale’s vice president for New Haven and state affairs, were slated to give opening remarks, neither was available Saturday due to scheduling conflicts. Instead, the on-stage festivities focused on cultural performances by student groups, including the Phoenix Dance Troupe, the Association of Chinese Students and Scholars Butterfly Dancers, and Peruvian dancers.
A running soundtrack that ranged from “Seasons of Love” to Disney classics like “The Bare Necessities” and “Be a Man” played in the interim periods, and an impromptu Yale Precision Marching Band performance added to the day’s events.
Offstage, various booths lined the Old Campus paths, each featuring its own attraction. Groups gave out information on general resources and current and future community programs, including summer camps. The Yale Police Department distributed bicycle helmets to children, while the undergraduate group DEMOS conducted fun scientific experiments for kids and New Haven READS Book Bank gave out free books. The Yale Chess Club challenged visitors to intense games as face painting was offered nearby.
In addition, “Passports” were distributed to children at the welcome table to encourage them to visit the booths and get them stamped from all around the Old Campus ‘world.’
“Our goal is to celebrate university and community ties and introduce residents to resources they might not know about otherwise,” said Jeff Zhu ’08, an APO member who directed the Community Action Bazaar at the event.
Students involved in the event called the attendance good, but they said a lack of advertising contributed to a turnout, that was, overall, less impressive than in the past. An exception was last year, when bad weather forced the event indoors.
“We haven’t done as well advertising this year as last time,” Zhu said. “Everything came in place at the last minute.”
Both organizers and residents said the event brought together people who otherwise would not have many interactions in their day to day lives. Heather Robinson ’10 said it was nice to see residents come onto campus and expose students to issues beyond the Yale “bubble.”
Some New Haven residents praised the event’s organization; Marilyn Grimes said she wished it lasted longer and were held more frequently. But Grimes, who has brought her children to Communiversity Day for years — since her 20-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter were “small” — reminisced about the days when it featured popcorn, cotton candy, slides and a larger moon bounce.
“Other than that, they do a wonderful job,” Grimes said.