The shining sun and green grass set the stage for the first ever Rah Rah Fête on Saturday, May 23. Rah Rah Fête was envisioned and planned by seniors Kathleen Beeson and Kaley Morlock. Campus grounds from Seymour lawn to Post lawn were filled with fabric, tarps, wire, sculptures and many other student-created art pieces. The art, though, was only one aspect of this seven-hour event. The idea, as Morlock explained it, was to, “make a ridiculous thing.” All the two knew was that they wanted to combine their interests to make a unique and enjoyable event for all of campus to enjoy.
Some of the trees had patterned fabrics tied around or hanging from them. There were also photos, textiles, and easels with mostly abstract paintings displayed. Wires with beer can flowers connected trees to one other and were also wound around some of the streetlamps on campus.
Beeson has been involved in Concert Club and Outdoor Club, while Morlock organized Artsplosion. “We really wanted to combine forces,” Beeson said. The planning started before spring break. Beeson and Morlock were dressed as Tweedledee and Tweedledum, which was appropriate considering how much time they spent together organizing the event. Morlock added, “We pretty much didn’t leave each other’s sides.” The two friends even finished each other’s sentences when talking about the festival.
Beeson found “rah rah” in Webster’s Dictionary, which means enthusiasm and artistic expression, and the organizers thought it was the perfect name for such an amalgamated festival. They both thought it fit the mood of the festival and was an appropriately unique word. “Fête” was found as a synonym for festival. “We didn’t want to name it Knoxfest or any other fest,” said Beeson, and ‘fête’ seemed to fit perfectly.
Small groups of people scattered themselves all across the lawn to talk, eat, and enjoy the entertainment. According to Morlock and Beeson, their main obstacle was funding, so they partnered with KARES. After that, more clubs wanted to participate. Pagan Student Alliance had a table for free tarot card readings, Alliance for Peaceful Action had fair trade food to sample and buy, Baked Benevolence made pies from scratch for the pie-eating contest, and there was a face painting table.
On top of all this, there was also a multicultural lunch provided by the Knox College Dining staff. Also, about eight bands of various genres performed.
Beeson and Morlock also strived to be as green as possible. They achieved this by having completely biodegradable silverware, cups and plates. Separate trashcans for compost, recyclables and non-compostable food were at a table where someone was always present to make sure all trash went in the correct cans.
“The pie-eating contest is about to begin; come watch people gorge themselves on delicious apple crème crumble crisp pie!” was the cry of senior Adam Vera, a member of Baked Benevolence, who was responsible for making most of the pies. He got on stage and tried to encourage more people to watch the next contest. He said that Beeson described the pie-eating contest as “disgusting and entertaining.”
“Last participant gets to eat a whole pie,” announced an organizer trying to recruit one more person to join the pie-eating contest. In order to win, contestants were supposed to eat an entire pie in 10 minutes. A small crowd gathered around the table; some offered words of encouragement while others just watched with fascination and disgust. Towards the end of one round of the contest, one participant could barely fit any more pie in his mouth. His face was bright red. Seeing this, one spectator yelled, “Don’t hit the wall— keep going.” Another participant abruptly ran away from the table, but returned a few minutes later to continue. With less than a minute remaining, the crowd started to count down in unison.
The pie-eating contest was actually the reason the first band dropped out. The lead singer was in the first round and got sick, so they couldn’t perform.
Spondaic Buttons, a metal band with an energetic lead singer, Elbow Macaroni, a folk band dressed as their colorful inner selves, and Jimmy’s Other Band, a three piece band that defied classification, were the only bands able to perform before the rain. As some people struggled to quickly move everything inside while there was still a drizzle, the poetry reading began. Even when the rain picked up, the poetry readings continued and the crowd stayed. As one of the poets proclaimed, “Poetry is hardcore.”
Eventually, everything was moved into Wallace Lounge, where incense was lit and the festival continued with a committed, but much smaller crowd. Seven poets performed, and then the music continued. Coitus Interuptus was the first band to perform inside. Though composed of just senior Phil Peterson on guitar and senior Adam Vera on drums, and lacking vocals, the crowd responded well. At the beginning of the set Peterson said, “This song came to me by way of the Holy Spirit. The spirit of whiskey, that is.”
The Birthplace of Ronald Reagan is on Fire came all the way from Chicago to perform at Rah Rah Fête. The lead singer and guitarist could barely stand still, constantly dancing, jumping or going into the audience. Their sound was reminiscent of The Ramones, and the energy they brought really excited the audience.
The last two bands were a small soul-folk band by the name of The Pickletown Players, and the Ree Yees from Missouri.
The rain did not stop the energy from emanating from the organizers and the event itself. Rah Rah Fête encompassed so many student interests on campus that it truly epitomized the vibe Beeson and Morlock wanted.