This Friday, the Rensselaer Union hosted Union After Dark. The list of attractions seemed full, varied, and fun. A spaghetti tower competition, ice-cream eating contest, henna tattoos, and life-sized board games were just some of the items on the bill. There was also a full evening of performances, including three a cappella groups and several bands, and, of course, that great crowd favorite: free food. It promised to be a great evening. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite deliver on that promise.
There certainly was something of a crowd, especially in the McNeil Room where the live performances were taking place, and the entrance—where they had set out the food—was completely packed as the evening began. However, I couldn’t help but feel that the event could have been better hyped and advertised to draw more people. Many people I had asked to tag along to the event were totally unaware it was happening ‘till I mentioned it. Since many of the activities required a crowd’s energy to really be enjoyable, I felt more attention could have been given to this aspect. As the night went on, the crowd quickly thinned and the momentum of the whole event started to fizzle out. The food was mostly gone by 10 pm, and while this was two hours into the event, for something that’s supposed to last until 1 am, this was quite disappointing. Perhaps, in addition to the free food, they could have had some stalls selling food. The number of people at the Rathskeller and in Father’s Marketplace indicated that they probably would have done good business.
The individual activities could also have been made more prominent. Although there were a few posters listing the activities and room numbers, there were few people on the second floor where things like life-sized board games and henna were taking place. The signs were small and posted directly outside the rooms, so that some people had no idea what was going on in the less prominent rooms, like the spaghetti tower competition. On the subject of that competition, this seemed like a really fun event, but it finished quite early into the evening. Instead of leaving the room empty for the rest of the night, it could have been booked for something else, maybe even another round, because it seemed to be fairly popular. I saw many people intrigued by the sign, but disappointed because it was over. Considering a large number of people would not have shown up right at the start of the evening, this should have been anticipated. The arts and crafts room was out of everything but colored markers and construction paper by 10 pm, and the henna room—which was very difficult to find—was definitely done for the night by then, too. The materials for the life sized board games were just left in the rooms, and though many people seemed interested, nobody really started them off. They would probably have had more success if a few organizers had been leading them.
The music performances could also have been better arranged. Instead of having all three a cappella groups perform back-to-back, they could have been spaced throughout the night. An acoustic guitarist who wrote his own songs was extremely popular with the crowd. Unfortunately, this crowd consisted of thirty people, because the slot he was given was at 12:30 am. I couldn’t help but feel that he should have been put on earlier. It might also have been a good idea to use the McNeil Room as a dance floor and encourage more of a laid back, party atmosphere instead of putting chairs over the entire floor.
There were certainly high points during the evening. You could feel the energy in the room during the Vermonster ice-cream eating contest when all the participants and audience really got into it. The photo booth had several fun backgrounds to choose from and props, including Viking helmets, were also quite popular throughout the evening. However, overall, Union After Dark seemed to fizzle out fairly quickly and felt like a good idea executed poorly.