For the first time in nearly 30 years, Lawrence University will not host its annual Celebrate! spring festival of the arts.
Citing a growing student interest in other campus events in the spring along with the increasing difficulty in recruiting Lawrence students to serve as volunteers to plan and work the festival, the student committee charged with organizing Celebrate! has decided to cancel the event. Diminishing attendance in recent years was also a factor in the decision.
“We’re extremely proud of the fact we’ve been able to host a community-wide event of this scope and quality for all these years,” said Paul Shrode, associate dean of students for activities at Lawrence. “But for a variety of reasons, students have gradually shifted their attention away from Celebrate! in recent years and have put their energies and interests into other activities. From its inception, Celebrate! has been a student-initiated and student-organized campus event and we respect their decision to focus on other activities that they believe better serve the current interests of the student body.”
Celebrate! planning committee chair Sandra Marks, a Lawrence junior, observed that while the festival has undergone many changes through its history, “The past few years have been particularly challenging with the advent of the mid-term reading period (an academic period that coincides with Celebrate! designed to allow students concentrated time to focus on their coursework), poor weather, the increase and growth in other campus spring events and competition from other area festivals and fairs.”
“Planning for Celebrate! 2004 began in the fall of 2003, with meetings centered around changing the festival to meet the interests voiced by students through a survey,” added Marks. “Unfortunately, with limited student involvement, lost revenues and in the face of declining community support, it proved difficult if not impossible to continue the event.”
Celebrate! began in 1975 as a successor to the Renaissance Fair, a campus event that featured students dressed in Elizabethan costume. Traditionally held on the Saturday before Mother’s Day each May, Celebrate! offered a variety of live musical entertainment, dozens of arts and crafts booths, activities for children and an assortment of food vendors. At its peak, as many as 25,000 people and more would roam the Lawrence campus during the day-long festival, but in recent years attendance had fallen to about 7,500.
In recent years other student-organized spring events, including the Earth Day festival, which has taken on a broader family-oriented theme, and Shack-a-thon, a fund-raising event that seeks to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless with proceeds going to the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, have grown in scope and student interest.
“While it is regrettable in many ways, Celebrate! is a campus tradition that has simply run its course,” said Shrode. “While Celebrate! is no longer, I want to reassure the Fox Valley community that Lawrence will continue its involvement in other local events that utilize the campus such as Art-off-the-Park and Octoberfest.”
Lawrence University, "Celebrated! Lawrence University’s Annual Spring Festival Ending" (2004). Press Releases. 277.