Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 24, 2020

Students experience first virtual Hoptoberfest

By JULIA CHOE | October 12, 2020

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In past years, Hoptoberfest featured a week of in-person events and activities.

Hoptoberfest, an annual festival by a student organization of the same name, was held virtually for the first time ever from Monday, Oct. 5 to Friday, Oct. 9. The events, intended to relieve stress and celebrate the start of autumn, featured activities including concerts, a baking class and a virtual zoo.

In an email to The News-Letter, junior Trifeena James reported that she enjoyed Hoptoberfest’s attempts to create an online experience.

“While this year was different, I still appreciate the efforts of the organizing board with setting up the events so that the Hopkins community could still come together on a virtual platform,” she wrote. “It's always great to see different members of the community come together outside of an academic setting.”

Hoptoberfest Co-Chair Isaac Lucas explained that holding the festival virtually presented unique challenges to his team, who were not expecting the fall semester to be entirely online.

“When they sent the announcement out, we only had those two-and-a-half months to plan for a fully virtual event when we normally would have had an entire year of planning,” he said. “It was definitely stressful.”

According to Hoptoberfest Co-Chair Christine Cho, the organization’s staff always start organizing one year in advance. 

“We start planning pretty early on so that we have a set schedule, and we know what things we need to purchase in advance. Usually [the executive] board meets over the summer to go over other logistics,” she said.

Although coming up with virtual events on such short notice was a challenge, Cho noted that the group’s sponsor was very flexible in making the switch.

“Usually every single year, we co-sponsor with JHUnions Student Programming Board. We usually partner with them for our in-person DIY event. Instead, we had a trivia night. We were able to work things around and still co-sponsor with them because we have a great relationship with them,” she said.

Typically Hoptoberfest’s kickoff event showcases live student performing groups. To make up for that, a virtual student performing group showcase was held, featuring a wider variety of groups.

Lucas expanded on this partnership.

“[During] our kickoff event, we normally feature the a cappella groups. This year we were actually able to add in some dance teams and the Buttered Niblets, which is an improv comedy group that we never really would have been able to fit into our normal kickoff event, but our new showcase format gave us an opportunity to be able to highlight some of these other groups,” he said.

Some traditional events had to be left out, including the campfire event co-sponsored with the Hopkins Outdoors Club. Lucas explained that it was the only major event Hoptoberfest could not replace or move online.

“There was no form of an outdoor event that we could possibly do this year,” he said.

Junior Yvette Bailey-Emberson was originally on the campfire team. This year she was part of the committee for the T-shirt design contest, which was held on Thursday.

In an email to The News-Letter, Bailey-Emberson explained that organizing virtual events differed from organizing in-person ones.

“Planning them definitely took less time than in-person,” she wrote. “There’s less logistics when you just have to join a Zoom meeting.”

However, Bailey-Emberson found that advertising the event was more challenging.

“Our shirts are such a huge part of our events and that wasn’t a thing anymore — and a lot of people find our events from just walking by on campus,” she wrote. “A lot of my friends voiced that they didn’t even realize it was happening this week, and a lot of events clashed with classes and you can’t just stop by walking between classes when it’s virtual.”

Monday’s first event was a virtual petting zoo featuring two live streams. One was of penguin feedings at the Maryland Zoo, and the other was an all-day video feed of the National Aquarium.  Later that evening, Hoptoberfest and the JHUnions Student Programming Board hosted a virtual trivia night.

In an email to The News-Letter, sophomore Amara Gammon stated that she enjoyed the live-streamed petting zoo.

“I liked watching the zoo’s live stream, even though that is something I can do on my own time without the help of Hoptoberfest,” she wrote. “It was still fun to associate with the whole ‘Hoptoberfest’ vibe.”

Gammon also attended last year’s Hoptoberfest, where one of her favorite events was the in-person mini petting zoo with rabbits. While live streams were fun, she said, they did not compare to her past in-person experience.

“There’s no way to feel and pet the animals through a screen,” she wrote. “That part will be forever lost.”

On Tuesday, Hoptoberfest partnered with SweetSide Cafe for a virtual baking class. Participants learned how to bake chocolate chip cookies and apple pie. That evening the Student Performing Group Showcase was held, featuring various student groups.

Wednesday was Self-Care Day, co-hosted with the Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center and the Student Health & Wellness Center. Students attended a yoga and meditation session. In the evening Hoptoberfest hosted a game night.

Junior Trifeena James shared that she attended Self-Care Day.

“It was a great way to decompress and stray out of what has become my new daily routine”, she wrote. “Scheduling in time to take care of my body and mind helped me to refocus and prioritize my overall well-being, something that is often compromised, especially during the school year.”

Senior Leila Connolly, who attended Trivia Night, Game Night and Self-Care Day with her roommates, explained in an email to The News-Letter that she appreciated the three events.

“It was a nice distraction from school and other things going on. The people in Hoptoberfest brought together some really fun events to engage with us,” she wrote. “It felt like a moment of normalcy and being somewhat connected back with campus.”

On Thursday, Hoptoberfest revealed the winner of the T-shirt design contest. Contestants had until Wednesday to submit their designs, which were then voted on by the Hoptoberfest committee and the student body.

The first place winner was freshman Caitlyn Bernhard, followed by senior Suyeon Ju and junior Eden Sheinin. Bernhard’s design will be on next year’s official Hoptoberfest T-shirt.

The second event that day was a movie night featuring a screening of The Invisible Man.

On Friday, Hoptoberfest and the Hopkins Organization for Programming presented a live musical performance by Quinn XCII. The singer-songwriter held a live concert and Q&A session, answering questions submitted on Hoptoberfest’s Instagram story.

There were some technical difficulties during the live streaming of the concert, but Gammon, who attended the performance, explained that she didn’t mind.

“I realize that internet stability is hard to ask for, considering most people are at home and so is their family, ultimately burdening the wifi capacity, so I’m personally not upset about the live stream cutting out for the concert,” she wrote.

Overall, Cho shared that she was proud of Hoptoberfest’s efforts to make this year’s virtual festival successful.

“We really did make do with what we had, and I think all of our events were amazing,” she said. “We’re really proud of how it turned out.”

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