Celebrate USF: Forming Community at the Food and Music Festival

Erica Jiminez, Thalia Fernandez, and Lamiya Cotton show off their school spirit (and pom poms).

Approximately 2,000 students, alumni, family members, and friends mingled over free food, drinks, and live music on Saturday at the Food and Music Festival on Welch Field, as part of the University’s two-day family weekend, CelebrateUSF.

Guests played inflatable sport games, Jenga, and bean bag toss, among other games. Attendees waited in line for caricature drawings and free USF spirit gear, like T-shirts and stickers.

“People are friendly. I enjoyed the food, and everyone says, ‘Hello, how are you?’ ‘Did you get any free stuff today?’” said junior doctoral candidate, Edwin Martinez Callejas.

The event featured free food from alumni-owned eateries and food businesses. Guests had options of sourdough bread and clam chowder from Boudin Bakery, meatballs from Original Joe’s, chicken wraps from the Organic Coup, La Colombe Coffee, and ice cream from Hometown Creamery’s ice cream truck. Sliders and rice bowls were catered by Bon Appetit. 

Organic Coup is an organic fast food restaurant founded by USF alumna Erica Welton. USF has a working relationship with the restaurant and serves their wraps in the cafeteria. Nicole Eyck, a representative from Organic Coupe, said of USF community members, “It’s been amazing. They’re all very receptive when I try to explain about our businesses or where they can find us. Everyone’s been very nice.”

Guests snaked through the lines, helping themselves to unlimited servings. Students took advantage of the free food.

Elijah McLeod, a sophomore marketing major, said, “I heard there was free food — I was super hungry so I pulled up to eat and celebrate.” McLeod, along with a group of friends, ate sliders and ice cream from Hometown Creamery.

Sophomore computer science major Nathan Garrick was one of four friends with McLeod. “We get to meet parents, everyone’s happy, we grabbed some food and danced. We just love USF,” he said.

Guests above the age of 21 sipped wine and beer at the open bar. Others had glasses of lemonade, iced tea, or water.

In between food and drinks, guests sang along to classics like “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” performed by 80’s tribute band, Tainted Love

Lisa Johnson, who traveled with her husband from San Diego to visit her daughter, Remi, said, “I love the fact that you have an 80’s band here. It speaks to the parents.”

CelebrateUSF is an annual event at which parents, alumni, and community members immerse themselves in USF’s student culture with a set of programs, workshops, and opportunities for connection. 

“CelebrateUSF is an opportunity for parents to come and visit their students,” said President Paul Fitzgerald, S.J. “It’s a really wonderful weekend for people who are 5, 10, 20, 50 years out to come back and find their friends. It’s a great place for people to get together and mingle.”

Some students used the festival as an opportunity to share their life at USF with loved ones.

“It feels really awesome for them to see me in my space and also in a way to see them in theirs. My college experience is also theirs,” said junior media studies major Remi Brandli about her parents.

Other students saw the event as a way to take pride in and celebrate their education.

Lamiya Cotton, Spirit Squad captain, attended the festival with the Spirit Squad. “We’re celebrating and recognizing that a lot of us have the privilege of being in college and pursuing higher education,” Cotton, who is a junior communications major, said. “It means a lot for someone like me, who didn’t think I would have the opportunity to, and finally I do and people are celebrating us being here.”

Parents expressed feeling positive about the community USF has created for students.

“The second we visited two years ago we knew this was the place to be,” said Johnson. “This just reinforces everything. It’s what we expected.” 

“What I’m seeing here is families,” said parent, LaGuadia Coughman. “That tells me that USF is doing a great job and embracing families, so it really makes me feel good as a parent knowing I’m leaving my daughter here. We’re celebrating her having an amazing experience here.”

“It’s just a fantastic sunny afternoon. Why not Celebrate USF?” Garrick asked with a smile.


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