April 4, 2012

Going beyond the Mayhem

What makes a great party? The music? Decorations? The crowd? What about the theme that shapes all of those?
Some of these themes, like Sigma Nu’s Sunrise, Beta Theta Pi’s Toga or Sigma Chi’s Mayhem happen every year, but others are brand-new each term. Some of these ideas come from fraternity members, their friends or the fraternity’s social chair. It then falls to the social chair to make those ideas a reality.
“If the campus is excited, the fraternity is excited,” Sigma Chi social chair, sophomore Alex Jandernoa said. Since Jandernoa said that Sigma Chi wants to provide a “safe and fun way” for Knox students to spend a few hours, he feels it is important to incorporate a theme that students will feel drawn to.
Although Sigma Nu’s social chair, sophomore Andrew Cook, said that most parties are “basically the same party every time with tweaks.” These tweaks to decorations, costumes and music are not insignificant.
The first thing a party theme affects is the party’s advertisements.
“It’s always fun to make posters with a thematic link … to get people excited,” Cook said.
The party theme also affects its music. This could be something little like Sigma Nu playing the Russian National Anthem during their Communist Party, but it can also be integral to the theme like the live funk band that was the central feature at Sigma Chi’s Funk party.
When Beta held an electronica party at the beginning of the year, the turnout surprised Beta social chair, senior Karl Bair. Although the party was slightly smaller than most of Beta’s parties, what really amazed him was the crowd’s make-up.
“People I’ve never seen in the house before were there,” he said. Members of the Knox community who might not normally go to Beta showed up because of the theme. It is important to Bair to throw parties to appeal to different groups of people. As social chair, Bair said he is “trying to reach out to everybody, see who we can form a bond with.”
The fact that the theme affects the crowd who attends was something that all three social chairs mentioned. If a theme is very popular, the fraternity might consider repeating it. Although Beta’s popular B80’s party is not one of their three traditional parties (Beach Bash, Toga and Go To Hell), it always draws a crowd and so the fraternity has been repeating it for years.
A good party is also important, Jandernoa said, since if a party is really popular, it builds up their reputation on campus. If students liked the last party a fraternity threw, students might be more likely to attend their next party, even if they’re not interested in the theme. This gives the fraternity freedom to experiment with more unusual party themes, like Sigma Chi with their Space Cowboy party.
Jandernoa said Sigma Chi does “a lot of experimenting with different kinds of parties” to see what works and what does not and he has discovered a few things. According to Jandernoa, “Knox likes to dance” and “people like costumes. Knox is a creative place.” This comes into play with parties like their ABC (Anything But Clothes party), Halloween parties like Sigma Nu’s Sigma Boo or Beta’s Toga.
Jandernoa pointed out when costumes are the theme of the party, they also become the party’s decorations. This means Sigma Chi was able to spend less money on decoration and put it into things that improve their overall party quality, like better speakers.
Although many students like theme parties, Cook said that parties that do not necessitate costumes put less pressure on the attendants since they do not have to come up with a costume.
“Most of our themes, you don’t need to dress up,” Cook said. “You just show up and have a good time.”
Bair is graduating at the end of the year, but he is looking forward to using the skills he used as a social chair in the real world.
“I work for Bobby Schilling, and I’m interviewing for a field position in May,” he said. Although a political campaign might not seem much like a fraternity party, Bair said, “The principal is the same. You want to get positive feedback and reach as many different audiences as possible.”

Paige Anderson
Paige Anderson is a junior double majoring in computer science and creative writing. This is her second year as co-Mosaic editor. Outside of TKS, Paige has written for Knox’s Office of Communications and for her high school newspaper; her in-depth work won a third-place medal in the Redwood Empire Excellence in Journalism Awards competition. Paige will intern at Amazon during the summer of 2013.

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