Rachel Treisman

Old Campus opened its gates to more than 25 New Haven groups Saturday afternoon as part of the first annual New Haven Fair.

The fair, a collaboration between the Yale College Council and Dwight Hall, featured representatives from community and campus organizations including local nonprofit New Haven Reads, the free breakfast restaurant Sunrise Café, Long Wharf Theatre and the Yale College Democrats and Republicans. Representatives from visiting organizations chatted with students and handed out flyers and candy with the aim of bridging the gap between Yale and New Haven.

“I’m extremely happy with how it’s going; we’ve had a lot of traffic today,” Dwight Hall Institutional Service Coordinator Abby Troy ’18 said. “Building relationships between the Yale student body and New Haven groups is definitely something that should have happened a long time ago, but I’m glad we’re setting the precedent now.”

Roughly 100 students passed through the fair over its three-hour span. The event kicked off with five guest speakers from the community: City Director of Arts, Culture and Tourism Andy Wolf; Dwight Hall Director Peter Crumlish DIV ’09; Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12; CT State Legislator Roland Lemar; and Director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking Doug Hausladen ’04. The speakers discussed the importance of engaging with the community outside Yale, and encouraged students to reach out to them personally for help doing so.

Eidelson spoke about transitioning from being a Yale student to New Haven’s alder as an example of connecting and falling in love with the city. Hausladen said he sees New Haven as the “greatest small city in America” because it is the perfect size for people to identify and fix problems. He described the Elm City as a place big enough for impact but small enough for officials to be accessible.

Wolf — speaking on behalf of Mayor Toni Harp, who was not present at the fair — mentioned the mayor’s new program to designate New Haven as one of a small number of cities known for kindness and said there is “no greater statement of kindness than Dwight Hall.”

“We often talk about Yale and ‘the community’ as if they’re two separate places, but at Dwight Hall we like to think of community as not a place but something that you make,” Crumlish said. “The way you make a community is by building it, and that’s what Dwight Hall and YCC are doing.”

Representatives from city organizations said they were excited to participate in the first of a hopefully annual tradition and to get to know students who might want to get involved in their work. Courtney Marello of the Connecticut Food Bank praised the coordinators of the fair for encouraging Yale students to learn about community groups and put into practice what they have learned in academics. 

Student involvement in such groups varies. Some organizations such as New Haven Reads — which had about 125 Yale volunteers this past year and is looking to recruit more — already have close ties with the University. On the other hand, representatives from the Long Wharf Theatre lamented the lack of Yale students at their shows and discussed new initiatives to encourage student attendance.

“I think it’s always good to connect to students,” said J.R. Logan, the Chief Maker at local cooperative workspace MakeHaven. “They’re at a point where they’re facing a choice of being engaged in just the atmosphere that’s inside the university, which is very rich and you can be entirely fulfilled with that, I’m sure. But I think that for those who are brave enough to venture beyond the walls and get involved, there’s a whole other level of richness that you get from the community.”

Yale students interviewed said they were glad to see the beginnings of a stronger connection between the University and the city. Dwight Hall Co-Coordinator Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18 said he is glad that the organization was able to present New Haven in the positive light it deserved.

“I’m really excited to see Yale getting more connected with the New Haven community,” attendee Tyler Bleuel ’19 said. “I hope that a lot more students will come out here and see everything that New Haven has to offer. Obviously this is just a small sampling, but it really is such a great city that we often don’t pay too much attention to.”