BY MILLY WANG
An interview with College Events Board
Harvard’s annual campus-wide spring event, YardFest, took place last Sunday, April 13th, 2014, from 5:00pm to 8:30pm. This event featured two opening bands selected via the annual Battle for YardFest competition hosted earlier on March 28th, a featured singer — Janelle Monae, several long, self-serve food tables to accommodate the flow of students, a couple ice cream desert booths scattered all over Tercentenary Theater, and drink stands. This year’s meal consisted of vegetable burgers, pulled pork burgers, potato salads, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, and a variety of fruits. Interestingly, peaches and plums were much more popular with the students when compared to apples and oranges, which could be because they are not offered on a regular basis in the dining halls. The ice cream sandwiches and strawberry cake pops were, as in years past, very popular. But food selections aside, the Indy Staff was interested in learning a little bit more about the organization behind YardFest, College Events Board, and planning that went into this annual large event. And so, we reached out to junior Pilar Fitzgerald of Quincy House, the CEB point person for all things YardFest related.
Milly Wang: Could you tell us a little bit about the CEB? How many members are there? What kind of events do you plan during the year? What is your annual budget?
Pilar Fitzgerald: The CEB was founded as an organization responsible for planning fun, free, and inclusive, campus-wide events. Our biggest events during each year are the Welcome Back Event (right after move-in in the fall), Harvard-Yale Spirit Week, Harvard Thinks Big, Cinema 1636 (free movie screenings year-round) and YardFest. Right now, I think we have about 15 members. For the biggest events, we often have sub-committees that are responsible for the nitty-gritty logistics for planning the event, and then the rest of the CEB will help with staffing and pubbing. The YardFest committee, however, is a sub-committee of three members of the CEB that also includes three members of the Harvard Concert Commission. We’ve had that partnership for a few years now and it’s been really wonderful working with them on the event! (Unfortunately, the College Events Board is unable to share information on their budget).
MW: What did you plan specifically for this year’s YardFest (food, activities, giveaways)?
PF: This year’s Yardfest was the biggest show we’ve had in recent memory, and it cost us a pretty penny, which unfortunately meant we did not have much money left in our funds for a lot of giveaways. But, we did manage to distribute somewhere around thirty free t-shirts and, as always, there was food provided by HUDS.
MW: How did you decide on this year’s artist? Who else were you considering?
PF: The Yardfest committee has been planning the event since October. When I think back, I remember us doing a lot of list making of potential artists, meeting with other organizations on campus and the Office of Student Life, working with the budget. As far as artist selection goes, this year, we really tried to consider a host of different factors: rising star potential, name recognition, content of music, energy level, and of course, the budget. We work with a very tight budget, and it can be a nerve-wracking process because one day, an artist might be in your budget and then the next day, their price has skyrocketed. This year, we considered a number of musicians on the rise, but none of them seemed to have the same level of power and energy that Janelle brought to the table. She is just such an amazing, critically acclaimed, influential, and spellbinding performer in her prime. When that’s an option for you, you don’t turn that down.
MW: Is there something new this year? What makes this year different from last year?
PF: We were thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive reaction we got from the artist selection! It really felt like there was so much momentum and hype gearing up for the show!
MW: Is there anything particular that you wished that we could have had this year, but didn’t work out in the end? If you could have anything at this year’s YardFest, what would you have wanted?
PF: Silly string. No but I actually couldn’t have been happier with the results. I think Janelle truly delivered–not just a musical performance, but also an “experience.” That was the buzzword going around the CEB when we were doing load-out after the show. It felt like she took us on a journey!
MW: What do you anticipate the students will enjoy the most about this year’s YardFest?
PF: Hopefully people, especially the people who knew nothing about her, were inspired by something, whether it was the music, the lyrics, or her amazing dancing skill. Janelle believes in bringing people together with music and that communal vibe was the kind we strived to create with this year’s show.
MW: Do you have any advice for the next year’s group in regards to planning YardFest?
PF: It’s going to be tough to top this year’s performance, but I think my advice is to always take a step back from the process and take time to consider what matters the most to you when thinking about putting on a good show. Is it bringing the Harvard community together? Is it making sure that every person recognizes the headliner artist’s name? It’s important to make a list of “Yardfest Committee Core Values,” stick to your guns, and learn from your critics.
Milly Wang ’16 (keqimillywang@college) cannot wait for next year’s show.