After 20 years of celebrating earth, art and music, Willamette’s student-run festival Wulapalooza (Wula) will not be happening this semester. One of the co-presidents of Wula club broke the news to the student body via an email sent on Feb. 1. This decision has spawned from many compounding variables, which have to do with available funding. Wulapalooza club members will be planning a smaller but similar event for fundraising purposes entitled Futurepalooza, which will take place on April 20.
The Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) funds many student-run clubs and organizations, including Wula. The majority of the money comes from student funds, a $264.25 fee each student pays every semester. Therefore, funding fluctuates depending on the number of students enrolled at the University.
Due to smaller enrollment numbers and a lack of one-time funding, like unused money from clubs’ budgets from the semester before, ASWU had to ask organizations with large budgets to cut the amount they requested for this semester, according to ASWU President Akerah Watkins (‘19). ASWU Treasurer Sarah Mische (‘19) worked with the affected groups to help find a budget that could work for the organizations within a dollar amount that ASWU could realistically fund.
Historically, ASWU has been Wula’s sole financial support, allocating them around $30,000. For its 2019 event, ASWU asked the club to propose a budget of $5,000-$10,000, as reported by Mische.
“One of the biggest costs with Wulapalooza is [that] to start off ,you have about $10,000 in expenses to even have the event. Because you have to have a professional stage, professional lighting, the stage has to be covered with a roof… before you even book a band, it is a pretty expensive event,” explained Lisa Holliday, the advisor of the club. This means that the estimated amount that ASWU could use to fund the event may not be able to cover the needed materials for any performances.
However, Wula did not end up receiving any funding from ASWU. “Wula, as a club, didn’t ask for money in time. Of course we are going to own up to that,” said co-president Nikki Krebs (‘19).
While Wula is not scheduled for this semester, there are plans for future events. Currently, co-presidents Greth Lyon (‘19) and Krebs are brainstorming creative solutions to strengthen the event.
“Ultimately, we have gotten to a breaking point, and Wula needs to change in a lot of different ways. We need to make our event safer, we need to make it more open to the community and we want to diversify where our funding comes from; we want community support and sponsorships,” explained Lyon.
One of the biggest concerns held by the organizers and administration is the safety of the event. Lyon explained that an “unhealthy culture [has] developed around music festivals in the United States in general,” and that culture of substance use creates safety hazards and disturbances.
In order to address this, Wula of spring 2018 featured a chain link fence that ran the perimeter of Brown Field, enclosing the concert area and making the sole entrance and exit more easily controlled. Historically, the event featured two stages, one on Jackson Plaza and the other on Brown Field, with other activities scattered around those central areas. The fence restricted the event to Brown Field.
The fence appeared to help safety efforts. As data collected by a division of Student Affairs report, in 2017 there were over 80 incidents, which included but were not limited to disruptions, vandalism and vomit. In 2018, fewer than 20 incidents were reported.
However, the fence may have also reduced attendance. Krebs explained a viewpoint that she heard from many students: “They hated the fence. They decided either not to go or they went in and they left.”
Currently, Krebs and Lyon are trying to find ways to make Wula meet safety standards while reclaiming the event’s spirit and sprawl across campus. They also have ideas for adding new aspects and activities to the event that pull the focus more to earth and art, like film screenings and art galleries.
In the meantime, planning for Futurepalooza is currently underway. Krebs and Lyon are writing a proposal for the event, so the details about specific activities are being worked out.
The club is in need of dedicated students to help figure out how to make the future of Wulapalooza positive and sustainable. If you are interested, contact the co-presidents at <gelyon> and <vjkrebs>.