UA's annual Spring Fling is the largest student-run carnival in America, encompassing the talents of more than 3,000 students each year, and it's the city of Tucson's seventh-largest event. The weekend festival is a traditional way for students to relax before final exams and finally thaw out after winter's end. For Tucsonans, it is a throwback to one's UA years or childhood, and a fun way to see what those darn kids are up to these days.
This year, the carnival runs from Thursday, April 8, to Sunday, April 11. While it used to be held at the UA, Spring Fling has grown so much that it was relocated to Rillito Downs--a larger venue--a few years ago. The growth itself is admirable for an event at which all the carnies are students: Last year's attendance was estimated at 28,000.
Spring Fling features attractions familiar to most carnival-goers: games, food and entertainment ranging from professional to amateur. Game booths are created by all types of groups: UA dormitory associations, sororities and fraternities, and a variety of other student groups. Snacks are furnished by local restaurants and student organizations. Examples are the Society of Hispanic Engineers' El Guero Canelo booth, the Sign Language Association's Dippin Dots cart and the Association for India's Development's sweets from India.
Entertainment features Amy's Stepdad at 10 p.m. on Thursday, April 8; The Dating Game: UATV's Mind or Body at 7 p.m. and Gorilla Behind Bars at 9 p.m. on Friday, April 9; Troy's Bucket at 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 10; and Dirty Little Secret at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 11. In addition, new acts will be on stage every hour.
"On Thursday and Friday night, most of the bands are from the university," says Tricia Domschke, Spring Fling's public relations director. "The Dating Game: Mind or Body is normally played on the university TV station and broadcast only to residence halls. It takes parts of traditional dating shows: There's a partition, and people answer questions. Then they choose someone for their mind, and someone for their body." Singles can sign up for the game on Spring Fling's Web site.
While the fun and frivolity furnished by Spring Fling is undeniable, attendees sometimes overlook the other benefits provided by the carnival. It is the main fund-raising event for UA clubs, and the source of crucial support for many of these student groups. Whether people purchase food or drinks or play games, their money goes directly to the groups. In 2003, 70 clubs participated, gleaning a total of $46,000. More than a dozen clubs earned shares of this profit in the thousands.
"We've been working really hard all year to plan this," says Domschke. "For lots of the clubs, it's their primary fund-raiser." Domschke is a junior at UA and serves on Spring Fling's staff. Double-majoring in communication and psychology, Domschke herself is proof of the effort and enthusiasm invested in this event by its student organizers.
One success story that makes Spring Fling staff proud is that of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Their food booth, in conjunction with El Guero Canelo, earned a whopping $4,323 during 2002's Spring Fling. The following year, SHPE earned approximately $6,800 with the same booth and was honored with the Best Food Booth award, receiving the Dean's Trophy in recognition of its success.
Another group that has received recognition for its contribution to Spring Fling is Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A.), which served an impressive $2,000 worth of fajitas in its original booth, sponsored by Sonoran Grill. The group also received the "Best Façade" award for its creative booth décor.
Funds raised by clubs are used to fund scholarships for dedicated students, put on events and provide necessary club support. In turn, the clubs are able to promote awareness of their causes and provide education for the public. Spring Fling represents a unique fund-raising opportunity for student organizations who seek to make a difference in the local community.
Spring Fling runs from Thursday, April 8 to Sunday, April 11. Carnival hours are 4 p.m. to midnight on Thursday and Friday, noon to midnight on Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Live entertainment is scheduled from 4-9:40 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 1-5 p.m. and 6-9:40 p.m. on Saturday, and 1-4 p.m. on Sunday.
From Thursday to Saturday, general admission is $3; students with CatCards and kids under 7 are free. Wristbands for unlimited rides are available on certain days for $20 ($5 discount with a Mountain Dew product). On Sunday, April 11, admission is free. On that day, wristbands are available at 10 rides for $10.
For more information, call 621-5610 or visit uaspringfling.com.