The Best Weekend of All-Time
By David Zheutlin '11, Staff Writer
Oh, hello there. So I’ve been thinking about my column of late, and for the most part I’ve been discussing some issues on campus that deal with student life — a phrase that, really, just refers to “how students at Amherst are living.” I’ve brought up a number of issues with housing and campus life that I feel Amherst should be improving upon. That said, I want to recognize that for us as Amherst students, life is pretty awesome. I figured, then, that for this week it was time to write about something that stood out to me as a pertinent article topic: this past weekend was, like, the greatest weekend ever. There was so much going on; people were out and about; the fun-to-not-fun ratio was at an all-time high; it was all just so…Amherst-y. Allow me to elaborate.

This weekend, the greater Amherst College area held host to four fantastic goings-on: the Spring Concert featuring Mike Posner, the outdoor day-party known as Tom Jones, “Extravaganja” on the town common and the annual Admitted Students Weekend (better known as Prefrosh Weekend). That all these events happened in a 48-hour period made it one wild Amherst weekend. And despite the arctic April weather conditions for much of the weekend, I saw unprecedented numbers of people out and about, enjoying the great times.

I thought the Mike Posner-fest in LeFrak was good — even though people came into it with fairly low expectations. I look at it this way: maybe people wanted someone different, but Mikey P put on a solid show with plenty of music that people could dance to. And although his facial expressions were generally bizarre, he was enthusiastic, got the crowd into it and really enjoyed waving his arms.

Extravaganja, a “cannabis reform” festival on the town green, was hands-down the best people-watching event in world history. For those of you not there, the scene was something like Venice Beach meets Hampshire Halloween. Gotta love the Amherst locals. This weekend also coincided with the annual prefrosh weekend, when young prospective students descend upon Amherst and spend a weekend trying to pretend they’re in college (which, of course, never works since it’s so easy to spot those prefrosh). But overall, all the prefrosh I saw seemed to be loving the ’Herst and getting excited to be a part of the class of 2015 (a number which, as a senior, sounds ridiculous).

The highlight of the highlight-filled Amherst weekend, though, had to be Tom Jones, which has been a staple of springtime for the past three years. The outdoor grilling and chilling event was, as usual, well-run and highly attended, with unlimited quantities of steak, lobster and premium natural light beverages available for consumption. In the past, the event has been blessed with gorgeous sunny weather. This year, though, the weather was absolutely offensive — windy, low 40s, no sun to be found. But I think that’s just why I’m so impressed with the 2011 edition of the Jones. Despite the unnaturally gross April day, the men and women of Amherst were out in full force, relaxing, talking and getting their fun on.

What makes Tom Jones such a great event is that it’s one of those few moments each semester where it truly feels like we have an Amherst community. For the day, Amherst as a whole drops everything and comes together with the goal of having a great time with one another and enjoying our time at the finest college on earth. Now, certainly, not everyone was there, but my point is this: what I saw assembled at some random backyard behind Hitchcock was a slice of Amherst — and it was a fairly large one. Anyone could get a ticket and feel comfortable spending the day relaxing with their friends and classmates. There was no unifying “tag” you could put on the group to classify them except this: Amherst. And that’s cool. Simply put, Tom Jones brings our quirky, diverse and fascinating student body together for a day of collegiate entertainment.

There aren’t many events around campus that can boast, “bringing the Amherst student body together.” LipSync is one of them, the Homecoming Bonfire is another; maybe the outdoor Val barbeques qualify. But overall, there aren’t that many times when you can really look at an event and say that there was a random assortment of several hundred Amherst people in attendance and having a great time. I wish we had more of these kinds of events — and I’m not talking about outdoor parties, I’m talking about times where everyone at Amherst is sharing a common experience other than simply going to school here — because they’re the times that make our community stronger.

Amherst used to have a number of traditions that certainly contributed to that sense of community. Unfortunately, we don’t have too many anymore. I’m not saying we have to bring back old traditions that they had in the early 1900s, but it would contribute significantly to our sense of student life if we were to have more fun-times-in-common. Some schools have “Mountain Day,” where classes are cancelled and everyone hikes up a nearby mountain (not a bad idea); others have a daily empty-hour where nothing is taking place, so that everyone is guaranteed to be free at a certain time (great idea).

Maybe we could take some of these ideas and relate them to Amherst — “Antonio’s Day?” “Bird Sanctuary Day?” “Everyone Drive to Williams and Mess Around Day?” — as a way to replicate the sense of community that one gets from attending something like LipSync or Tom Jones. Because, as we all know, sharing common experiences makes us feel closer to one another, and being closer to one another makes us love Amherst even more than we already do. It’s a beautiful thing to feel like part of something larger than yourself — and larger than your own day-to-day college experience. And here we are part of something larger than ourselves: it’s known as Amherst, and it’s been the best school in the ’CAC since 1821. So let’s try to get more of these kinds of things going — I think everyone will be surprised how much fun they have, how many new people they meet and how much more comfortable and communal Amherst will start to become.

Issue 23, Submitted 2011-04-20 01:34:15