Senior Kate Carpenter won’t let the weather ruin her party – not this time.
Carpenter – a political communications major from Stillwater, Oklahoma and the former vice president of the Student Association – founded last year’s Presidents Weekend Palooza, a weekend-long series of spirit events that will return for its second year Friday, now dubbed GW Palooza. Despite freezing temperatures set to dip into the teens, the three-day celebration will feature eight events, half outdoors.
But after a surprise sequence of warm, sunny days forced Carpenter to cancel a skating event when the ice rink melted during President’s Day Weekend last year, she says the show must go on this time around. And just in case the weather is too harsh to bear, she and her team have learned from the hard-learned lessons of yesteryear to develop backup plans with reserved space in the University Student Center to ensure the palooza’s eight free events go uninterrupted.
“We don’t care if it’s cold,” she said in an interview. “We just want to party.”
Carpenter is serving as the executive director of GW Palooza, which is rolling out brand-new events to rally student engagement and school pride. Among them, GW Crown will make its debut Saturday as a spoof pageant featuring more than a dozen performers representing their student organizations. She and her team are also welcoming students back to last year’s popular outdoor events, like a banner-making competition in Kogan Plaza and two pre-basketball game tailgates in the green lot on 22nd Street next to GW Police Department headquarters.
More than two dozen student coordinators are readying the events, anchored by GW basketball games on Saturday and Sunday. Carpenter said she is particularly excited to host the GARMY – or George’s Army – Party Tailgate Saturday afternoon before the men’s basketball homecoming game against A-10 foe Duquesne.
Carpenter said the tailgate will feature a bounce house, a performance from student DJ M-SOZ, unlimited pizza, a sponsorship by Insomnia Cookies and various backyard sports.
“It was an impulse buy just yesterday to get a bouncy house,” Carpenter said. “We were just going to do a normal tailgate in the alley, and then things started to unravel just in the past week. And we’re like ‘You know what? Bouncy house. You know what? Student DJ.’”
For GW basketball and fans alike – the weekend is all about competition. The events will kick off Friday with a banner-making contest for members of student organizations and a dodgeball tournament for members of campus fraternities and sororities. Carpenter said a GW Palooza committee with “secret” members will present a President of the Weekend award to one enthusiastic student at Sunday’s women’s basketball game against George Mason. The chosen student will win a trophy and $200 to give to a student organization.
Carpenter said the team of 25 volunteers she’s leading, most of whom helped organize the inaugural celebration in 2022, crafted the events to better fit the schedules of busy students this year. She said they pushed up GW Palooza before President’s Day weekend so GW community members could enjoy the festivities when more students are in town, and each event will wrap up by 7 p.m. to avoid disrupting students’ weekend-night plans.
“We realized that students don’t want to be on campus on a Friday night at 8 to 9 p.m.,” Carpenter said. “So everything will be done by 7 p.m. both nights, which we feel really, really confident about because that gives students an opportunity to have something to do on their off day but also not having to sacrifice their nights.”
The palooza is perhaps the signature event of a University-wide effort to build school spirit as GW returns from pandemic-induced lethargy, picks a new moniker and works to address the widespread critique that students lack GW pride. Carpenter hopes the combination of student events with basketball games, where attendance has spiked since last year, will help bolster community enthusiasm for years to come.
Other organizers, like senior and GW Palooza Assistant Director Shaelyn McCarthy, said they’re proud to be part of an effort to build community among all students, whether they be die-hard Colonials basketball fans or students simply searching for some bustle on a Saturday afternoon.
“It’s just offering extra opportunity for students who might have a little bit more difficulty getting that push to go to a basketball game,” McCarthy said in an interview. “This is that push to get them out into the community and try new things.”
McCarthy, who has worked on the Mount Vernon Campus for four years as an employee of the Office of Student Life, said she focused on making the palooza accessible to Vern residents. McCarthy said she helped organize the Vexapalooza, a mini event where organizers will distribute Vern-exclusive stickers and shirts at the Vern’s quad while pushing students to attend the Foggy Bottom Campus events.
“I knew that we had to target that community and make sure that they were getting as great of a palooza experience as students who are off of the Vern,” she said.
Senior Chris Johnson, GW Palooza’s internal operations director in charge of managing much of the group’s logistics, said while officials have been generous with their support in helping to plan and provide spaces for the events, the palooza is “run by students, for students.”
“I think having students plan events that we think students would be interested in helps students come out and show their school spirit and show the pride of being part of the GW community,” Johnson said.
This article appeared in the February 2, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.