Rain dampens biggest-ever Yorkfest

rainy day studentFor the first time in its 11-year history, Yorkfest took one on the chin from Mother Nature as rain sent thousands of students scurrying for cover on Wednesday, putting a hasty end to the outdoor festivities.

Right: Adrienne Johnson, a student in York’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, dons a makeshift rain protector

All was not a total loss however, as the promoters – The Underground and the York Student Centre – quickly switched to plan B and moved the headline concert acts indoors to Burton Auditorium.

“We had been tracking the weather for days and watching the forecasts,” said Rob Castle, executive director of the Student Centre Corporation. “We knew we had to have a back-up plan.”

 ikea line-up

Above: Determined students line-up in the rain for a turn at a sponsor’s prize wheel – and a chance to win an umbrella.

The festival portion of the day, which began at noon and featured a record 110 student club and service group exhibits, was only partially disrupted when the rains came at around 3:30pm. Scheduled to stay on site until 6pm, most student exhibitors and corporate partners scattered, leaving the Harry Arthurs Commons almost empty. One notable exception was the IKEA booth with its long line of students waiting to take a spin on a prize mountain bikerwheel that remained busy despite the rain. Needless to say, the most sought after prizes were the large yellow and blue umbrellas. Another lonely stalwart was third-year psychology student Tanya Seropian, who remained at her post behind the York Graduate Psychology Students Association table without an umbrella when almost everyone else around her had left.

Left: Jos Laflamme, CEO of the Mountain Bike Club at York, gets extreme for a visitor

 psychology stalwarts
Above: From left, Erin Corcoran, a first-year psychology student in the Faculty of Arts, checks in with exhibit volunteer Tanya Seropian at York’s Pyschology Graduate Student Association table

Sponsor exhibits were much in evidence this year but organizers also more than doubled the number of tables over last year, to 110 from 45. This year’s event raised $80,000 from sponsors and commercial exhibitors, Castle said. Most of the money raised went to pay for the bands, stage equipment and security for an expected crowd of 4,000-5,000. But due to the rain, the back-up plan to use Burton Auditorium was put into action, which necessitated a separate indoor sound system and as a result, put the festival in the red by a few thousand dollars. “Hey, that’s part of holding an outdoor event,” Castle said. “It’s the first time in 11 years we’ve had rain at Yorkfest.”

sign of dark skiesAbout 600 souls stuck it out until the band Cheap Suits took the stage, opening for headliner and former York student k-os (Kevin Brereton). The other bands scheduled for the earlier hours of the concert were unable to play due to delays caused by the move indoors and prior commitments for that evening. “That was unfortunate,” Castle said, “but Cheap Suits and k-os played a great show and almost every one of the 600 who stayed got a seat in Burton.”

Left: Yorkfest sign stands tall under darkening skies Wednesday

When k-os finally took the stage that evening, “people stood up and stayed standing” for the entire 80-minute performance. “He was fantastic,” Castle said.

He said a big increase in corporate partnerships helped boost the non-profit event’s budget to more than three times what it was five years ago. The success, he said, was due to a professionally presented sponsorship and marketing campaign that built on Yorkfest’s growing reputation as the signal event of the year at York.

The festival’s layout was also changed this year, putting the main stage at the east end of the Common. While the stage has been placed at the east end in the past, this year’s location was specifically chosen to help reduce traffic congestion around the Common, which is now busier than ever with 1,400 buses a day making the circuit around the horseshoe.

Castle said despite the rain, Yorkfest was a big success and organizers hope to improve upon it again next year.