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Yale students celebrate second annual Bulldog Bash

Following the success of the first ever Bulldog Bash in 2018, the university hosted the welcoming event on Old Campus for the second year in a row on Aug. 24, celebrating students returning from summer break or arriving to campus for the first time.

This year, the Bash took on a vibrant New Orleans theme, with Yale Hospitality serving NOLA-inspired snacks and hurricanes (with and without alcohol), in addition to plenty of tried-and-true New Haven pizza and a musical line-up celebrating three pillars of Louisiana’s musical tradition: bounce, brass bands, and Cajun music.

In planning the 2019 Bash, coordinators at the Schwarzman Center hoped to recreate the aspects which made last year’s festivities so successful, in anticipation of the types of events students can expect to experience at the center. Garth Ross, executive director of the Schwarzman Center, described the approach to events the center puts together by saying, “What is so exciting for me about the center’s role is that we aim to deliberately use dining, social, and artistic activity as a way to bring this incredible community together. Especially at the start of the academic year, when the ‘move-in and get settled’ experience can be overwhelming, with the Bulldog Bash we want to create a space where it can be fun and easy to meet new people. Whether you come out for the music, dancing, or the food, we hope that everyone experienced some conversation and connection.”

Student reactions to the Bulldog Bash indicate that the celebration did just that.

Drew Koroda ’23 said that the event provided “an easy way to meet all the first-years,” as well as interact with older Yale College and graduate students. Wesley Wong ’23 was excited that the Bash allowed him to “bond with total strangers over good pizza and music,” while Jason Hsu ’23 was enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet President Peter Salovey and Dean Marvin Chun in such a relaxed and casual setting.

Patrick Chappel ’23 described the night as “a lot of fun, and a great way to get involved,” while Jeremiah Jewell ’22 commended the variety of food offered, including vegan options. Emmy James ’23 also praised the ambience at the event, and Maya Shah ’23 added that she “loved the lights and decorations,” as well as the opportunity to play games and dance with new friends.

Members of older classes appreciated the festivities as well. Michelle Pham ’20, who enjoyed the first Bulldog Bash last year, was happy to see the event return. Though only in its second year, the event has been embraced by students as an important part of the opening days. “I’m really glad that they are continuing the tradition,” said Pham.

Olivia Tracey ’20, a first-year counselor in Timothy Dwight College, also remarked on the unifying influence of the event, which she described as “a great way to appeal to all students at Yale.” She added, “It was great to go and spend time with my senior friends, as well as my first-years.”

Yalies in the graduate schools had a similar reaction. Chris Perkins, a student in the School of Management and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, remarked that, “As a graduate student, we don’t often know what goes on at the undergraduate colleges, so it was special to feel welcomed at an all-campus event in one of Yale’s signature locations.” Perkins mentioned that, while many of the attendees were undergrads, the event theme and food and beverage selections created a mature atmosphere and an enjoyable evening. “Even though my partner and I usually go to bed at 8:30, we were burning the midnight oil!”

Keeping the New Orleans theme in mind, great care was taken in selecting the musicians that would perform at the event. Ross worked in collaboration with Davenport College Dean and American studies professor Ryan Brasseaux, who is a Lafayette, Louisiana native. As Ross explained, “The goal was to bring together a group of artists that could create the conditions for the kind of connections we want the students to be able to make with each other. The lineup needed to be connected to Yale and New Haven, intergenerational, intercultural, collaborative, gender-balanced.”

The evening began with the BlueSteel Drumline, a New Haven community collaboration between Hillhouse High School and Southern Connecticut State University that evokes the percussion traditions of African American marching bands in the American South. Next up was the Funky Dawgz Brass Band, a Connecticut-based ensemble specializing in New Orleans street music. They were followed by the Grammy Award-winning Lost Bayou Ramblers, the preeminent Cajun band in America. Katey Red, a New Orleans-based M.C. and the first openly transgender bounce artist, took the stage next and called for volunteers to join her and her dancers, much to the delight of the cheering audience. Rimarkable, who DJ’d at the inaugural 2018 Bulldog Bash, closed off the night with her unique mix of house, techno, soul, funk, and disco music.

The focus on culture and community at Bulldog Bash sets the tone for a year of innovation, inclusivity, and interconnectedness, anticipating the function of the Schwarzman Center, which is scheduled to open in 2020. With the marked success of two Bashes, students can expect to look forward to the event for years to come.

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