missing the fair: year three

It’s 2am right now, and I’m drinking detox tea and working on various geek stuff because I can’t sleep. Which is rare for me. I did, however, fall asleep at 8:30pm, so that might have something to do with it. Therefore, I am listening to the entire Depeche Mode catalogue (all 485 tracks) on random and writing blog entries.

Since “Home” just came on, I shall write about just that. I received an email from ACF Backgate a few days ago, explaining the new alumni guest policy. Which only served to remind me of one thing:

I’m missing Arts County again this year.

For those of you who have joined me since 2003, let me write my annual entry explaining what the Fair is. It is the UBC end of year party. It started fourteen years ago when the Arts Undergrad Society decided to throw a Last Day Of Classes party, with five rock bands and a lot of what UBC calls, “bzzr”, due to inane campus advertising policies that make it illegal to mention alcohol on posters. But the first ACF was a huge success. So huge that it actually had to be moved, at the last moment, from the field behind our student union building, to the stadium across campus, creating a mystery that would last through the ages. (Yes, gang, that is why the posters for ACF I say “McInnis Field”, but the photos are CLEARLY from T-Bird)

Let’s cut to a few years later, in 1996, when I was finishing my first year at UBC. By now, the Fair is in its fifth year. At a 15,000 person capacity, most of the 22,000 student population goes. The bands have gone from Vancouver unsigned, to major Canadian label (which is to say, nothing anyone requiring this Intro To ACF summary would have heard of). Arts County Fair has begun to enter the stuff of legend on campus.

In 2000, I was working at SBC in Plano, Texas, and I was not particularly happy about it. Therefore, I would read the UBC student newspapers online, dreaming of going back to UBC. That was the year mhalachai was the editrix of the 432, and the year that Moist headlined ACF. And I remember being so impressed with the AUS for throwing that event, and thinking, “gosh, what an amazing bunch of people to pull off this Fair!”

When I got back to UBC in 2001, I joined the History Students Association. And they sent me to the AUS as the rep. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but suddenly, I was at council meetings, and then found myself driving up to a retreat at Whistler with fifty people I didn’t know. At which I found out exactly what it meant to be on the AUS: it meant working on Arts County Fair.

I take a lot of pride in having worked on the Fair. It’s completely student run, which meant that we spent four months working on it, from January through April. It’s a real rock festival, too – five bands, an electronica stage, and 15,000 people. We promote it for months before the event until it sells out. We set up for almost a week beforehand, building the stages and putting down plywood on the grass. Not to mention flying geotek – that disgustingly filthy material that is put down on the ground. We take the whole thing down when we’re done, pick up the solid layer of garbage that remains, and leave the stadium as we found it. ACF staff coordinate with police for roadblocks and cab companies for a taxi stop, to go along with the SILO OF BEER that has been negotiated for and is sold, mug by mug, at the event itself. It’s a bigger, more complicated, more difficult event than I think most people have the opportunity to experience in a lifetime.

But it’s so worth it, because the Fair is the year end event at UBC. It’s known nationally in Canada, as not only a killer festival, but as the country’s largest student run event. People come in from other colleges – UVic, SFU, the colleges in the Valley and the interior. And it means the most to the UBC students themselves. In year fifteen, Arts County Fair is an establishment, a tradition, and part of the University itself. The artists are outstanding, the alcohol is from local breweries, and everyone seems to share this unique spirit and enthusiasm for the Fair that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

In 2002, there was a training video shot that covered the Making Of Arts County Fair. I don’t know what happened to it, although I’d love a copy to show my friends here to explain all this. It showed us, the ACF 11 staff, from the day we started postering through the day we surveyed the wreckage of the field. And it showed interview snippets with the student population of UBC. Arts County Fair Day is like Christmas at UBC, only with even MORE drinking. Students get up earlier to start drinking on ACF Day than they do to go to class. Mimosas and tequila sunrises in Totem Park, kegs of beer in the woods. Everyone loves the Fair – and even on years when it rains, we still get a full turnout, complete with kids sliding down the muddy hill in the stadium.

I loved being part of Arts County. It brought me together with my friends in the AUS. I loved being part of the excitement, and the tradition, and the event itself. It was one of the defining events and associations of my university career. And I’m always going to be ACF Alumni because of it. I’m always going to have that connection and that affiliation. I was student speaker at my grad ceremony, and I had a track record of university involvement and leadership, but the Fair is high on the list of Things At UBC I Was Proud To Be Part Of.

However, I also graduated in 2003, and I haven’t been back for the Fair since. In 2004, it fell on Easter weekend, and I was in New Orleans with sammynella. In 2005, I was already scheduled to go to San Francisco, and I let my ex-roomate bully me into NOT skipping that to go to the Fair. This year, I’m leaving for Europe in three weeks, and I don’t have vacation days – or dollars – to spare for the Fair. And each year, I’m a little less sad about not being there, because I’m growing up and moving on and that just isn’t part of my life now.

I was very lucky to have the relationship I did with my university, and with the people there. I made it that way, because I got myself involved, but UBC’s unique in the opportunities that were there to get involved with – including Arts County fair. I was really truly part of the community that is the University, in the time I was there, and a big part of the way I relate to my alma mater would not be the same without the Fair, and the fifty-odd councilpeople who ran it.

To the AUSers who are reading this – I love you all, and I always will. I expect drunken text message updates next Thursday. And, as the song says: kiss them for me, I may find myself delayed. Let’s hope I don’t have anywhere else to be in 2007.

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