Spring Jam 2017: creating the “festival experience”

This year’s changes planned to attract upperclassmen

Artwork by Jaye Ahn

Artwork by Jaye Ahn

Although Spring Jam celebrates the end of a school year, plans for the event begin long before most students set foot on campus. Last July, the five Spring Jam student coordinators first formally discussed Spring Jam 2017, and they’re planning on making some experimental changes. They’re hoping that beer gardens and free pancakes will spice up the festival.

A new group of students from the Student Unions and Activities Program Board plans Spring Jam each year. They serve their one-year terms beginning in the spring before the event. This schedule allows them to work with the previous year’s outgoing board members to understand the necessary scope of planning. This year’s board includes Bryce Thompson, Claire Koory, Eliot Goedeken, Leila Aboujouda, and Matthew Bork. Each student coordinates specific aspects of Spring Jam from volunteer coordination to social media and experiential marketing. Members also consult with faculty advisors who provide insight about past Spring Jam decisions.

The board’s early discussions, which were guided by student feedback, prompted event changes that aim to provide students with a “festival experience” and draw upperclassmen.

One way Spring Jam 2017 will emulate the increasingly popular music festival is by introducing a beer garden. Although alcohol has never been served before, the addition aims to draw upperclassmen and graduate or professional students to Spring Jam and to enhance its “festival feel.” The beer garden will, according to student coordinator Aboudouja, show “the University community that students can safely consume alcohol.” Although the most challenging change to implement, a beer garden will offer a new experiential layer to Spring Jam. To further heighten the “festival vibe” the board will add a fourth carnival ride, shorten the event, and offer fair food instead of food trucks.

Spring Jam festivities will actually start on the Friday before with Student Jam, a rebranded version of last year’s Spring Jam Warmup. Like Spring Jam Warmup, Student Jam will begin with a student group social that includes a diverse range of over 20 student groups. Interactive activities like giant bubble blowing, lawn games, and free food samples will accompany the groups’ booths. Student Jam will conclude with the final round Battle of the Bands competition. However, last year’s Spring Jam Warmup, the usual noon concert, will be replaced by Pancake Jam, where students will be treated to a free pancake lunch. Foregoing the midday concert makes Student Jam more accessible to students and saves on money that the board decided to use to attract a high profile headlining artist.

Despite the board’s early start, headliners enter their conversation only after Homecoming. When choosing the Spring Jam lineup, members consider several factors. Student feedback is considered first and foremost, Aboujouda said in an email. “Spring Jam is planned by students for students,” she said. The board also considers which artists have previously performed on campus, are trending in the media or on Spotify, as well as the artists’ public images. Practical concerns, like pricing and availability, are also considered. Members pitch their artist picks, decide how many should perform, and, ultimately, make final lineup decisions. Spring Jam 2017 headliners include A$AP Ferg, Jon Bellion, Robert DeLong, and Bad Bad Hats.

However, artists sometimes fall through due to issues of availability or budget, so the board must also decide upon alternatives. Each aspect of Spring Jam requires extensive planning, but artist selection is the most challenging because finding replacements can threaten the board’s tight timeline. Waiting for University approval for event changes, like this year’s beer garden and new ride, also challenges the board’s schedule as the approvals require time and are not always granted.

After finalizing artist selection, the board shifts its discussion to the details of Spring Jam’s other attractions, such as the event’s food vendors, carnival rides, and everything else. The board focuses on different aspects throughout the fall and winter to make its goals and rough early sketches become a reality. Now, Spring Jam’s student coordinators anxiously await their plans’ coming to fruition with this year’s heightened “festival feel” and student focus.

Like any good music festival, Spring Jam 2017 promises something for everyone, from its free pancakes and carnival rides to its live bands and beer garden. The board encourages everyone to experience what Spring Jam and Student Jam have to offer.

Student Jam will be held on Friday, April 21 at Coffman Memorial Union. Spring Jam will take place on Saturday, April 22 behind Ridder Arena. Tickets are $25 for students and $40 for the general public and can be purchased at Coffman Union or the St. Paul Student Center from April 17-21.