As the sun set over a balmy, spring Saturday, John Brown University’s 2021 spring semester anticipated summer’s arrival with a luau. From leis to hula hoops, Student Events and Activities (SEA) brought out all the stops in terms of décor and festivities. Events included a hula hoop competition to kick off the games, a limbo, a side game of pineapple bowling and beach-ball-bopping, all while JBU’s technical service, Audio Video and Lighting (AVL) pumped party music across the Quad. As the festivities progressed, students could enjoy free snow cones from Kona Ice’s snow cone truck. Director of AVL Services Bear Klenda was the disc jockey and master of ceremonies for the event.
Ashley Nikkel, junior psychology and Spanish double major, is the current student director of SEA and played a key role in planning this event. “We did a luau as our first event of the spring semester last year, and just had a lot of fun with it. The students love coming, dancing in the hula hoop contest. We’ve got a snow cone truck this time. It’s just a celebration of spring, summer and fun outdoor activities.” The event, which took place on the Quad, allowed more people to be in attendance than if it were indoors, due to COVID-19 regulations. Nikkel elaborated on this decision, saying, “We’re really trying to monopolize on outdoor space this semester so that we can let as many people as possible come have fun.”
“One of my favorite parts of event planning,” Nikkel said, “is putting in all the behind the scenes work and then seeing it come to fruitition and watching all the students we serve have a good time.” The funding behind the organization’s events stems from the students’ usual fees to the school. Nikkel stated, “Our budget comes from a student activities charge that’s part of the yearly student fees. There’s a budget for student activities within that.”
Since the pandemic has changed daily life on campus, SEA directors have had to reconsider events. Nikkel shared her perspective on event planning in a pandemic, saying, “Stuff like this doesn’t get to happen very often since COVID started. I love seeing people together and celebrating. Watching people come out and be fun and be silly and have a good time on the weekends is what makes this really special for me.”
Josh Human, freshman Christian ministry and formation major, attended the luau at the last minute. “It was pretty spontaneous. I was in the cafeteria when some people told us what was happening outside. I figured I’d come give it a shot and see what’s going on, and it’s a lot of fun. There’s music going on, and we’re just having a good time out here.”
Events with few attendees can be devastating to the hosts. They might wonder if their hard work was worthwhile. Lots of time and careful consideration goes into event planning, and things as seemingly small as what day the event is can have a major effect. Human said, “I think that Saturdays at JBU are weird, so there’s not a lot of people here to actually come to this event. But I think that it’s been pretty good. People are having a good time hanging out. I think it’s been a success so far.”