Spring Fair 2021, which included virtual, hybrid and in-person events, was held Friday, April 23 through Sunday, April 25. In addition to pandemic-related changes, University administrators, rather than students, planned Spring Fair this year. They organized the weekend with input from the student body via groups such as the Hopkins Organization for Programming (HOP) and Hoptoberfest.
This change was in response to last year’s controversy surrounding the Spring Fair Planning Committee’s misconduct allegations, which included hazing and underage drinking. The University fired several committee members, and others quit due to the changes.
Director of JHUnions and Activities Hal Turner described this year’s Spring Fair planning process in an email to The News-Letter.
“In order to gain as much student input as possible, the Spring Fair Planning Committee created an idea-share survey that was sent to Hopkins students and [Registered Student Organization] leaders requesting input on the types of activities and events they would like to see at Spring Fair this year,” he wrote.
Junior Saumya Nimmagadda, who was previously a part of Spring Fair’s Kids’ Committee, highlighted the fact that the Spring Fair Committee of previous years played no role in organizing this year’s events.
“It was a complete surprise to us that they were doing Spring Fair. I learned about it through Instagram,” she said. “Now that it’s an event run by the Hopkins administration, it removes the essence of what Spring Fair was.”
Amal Hayat, the executive chair of HOP, noted that the student-run group decided to provide the artist for Spring Fair’s concert in lieu of holding its own concert during the fall semester. HOP also donated a photo booth to the University for use at Spring Fair.
The University limited crowd sizes at the concert by live-streaming the artists’ virtual performances. Though this was supposed to be a hybrid experience, with 25 people allowed at the watch party, it was moved entirely online due to inclement weather.
As an additional effort to ensure COVID-19 safety, activities this year were oriented solely toward the student body. In previous years, efforts were made to include the greater Baltimore community as well.
Nimmagadda believes that this change made a major difference in Spring Fair.
“My role in Spring Fair was planning events for kids and the larger community,” she said. “Now, it is less about the community.”
Due to the pandemic, Spring Fair did not occur last year. For freshmen and sophomores, this was be their first time experiencing the tradition.
Raj Bhatt, a member of the freshman class council, was particularly excited to attend his first-ever in-person college event.
“I know I’m not the only one who hasn’t had an in-person event since before COVID-19 started,” he said.
Bhatt emphasized the difficulties freshmen have faced while transitioning to college during a pandemic.
“I can really only meet people in person. It’s not the same over Zoom or a phone call,” he said. “You don’t really feel like you’re a part of the community until you arrive here, and that’s why the spring semester has been so important, because you actually get to meet people.”
On Saturday of the Spring Fair, the school offered free swag bags to all Hopkins students and live-streamed the men’s varsity lacrosse game against the University of Maryland, College Park on Keyser Quad.
Freshman Alastair Powers enjoyed his time at Spring Fair that evening.
“We registered for the fair earlier in the day and got some pretty cool shirts and some free food, which is always nice,” he said. “We walked around to a few of the arts and crafts tents and those were pretty interesting, and we eventually stopped by the lacrosse game that was being live-streamed in the quad. It was a cool experience and it wasn’t very crowded.”
However, Powers recognized that this Spring Fair was different because of social distancing guidelines.
“I’ve heard it was a lot of fun in past years, but this year there really wasn’t a lot going on,” he said. “It really wasn’t what I expected Spring Fair to be, but I’m not very upset by it given the circumstances.”
Elizabeth Raphael contributed reporting to this article.