In a year where April showers looked more like blizzards, MAP's annual Springfest celebrated a return to the season's more traditional weather. A crowd of students passed under red and white balloon arches to find academic quad adorned with flags and inflatables.
Natalie Quintero's snow cone looked like an oversaturated tie-dye project. Syrup oozed in every color between the crushed ice crystals as she lapped up their ambiguously fruity flavor. Her friend Emma Jacky opted for more consistency, limiting herself to a solid blue cone.
On the sidewalk behind them, a woman pulled a wagon full of Doritos and water bottles. She was followed by someone in a cartoonish owl costume, the mascot for The Verge apartments.
"Do you know where you're going to live next year?"
Jacky didn't know where she'd be living, but it wouldn't be in Oxford. Come fall, she'll start her speech pathology master's program at Indiana University.
For some seniors on the brink of graduation, Springfest marked their first visit to campus on a Saturday in quite some time.
"I came strictly for the free food," said Jalana Phillips between bites of a food truck favorite: macaroni and cheese topped with Buffalo chicken.
Joining Phillips was her friend and fellow senior Jada Harris, who was excited that Springfest's food options had expanded beyond funnel cake and cotton candy. Ten minutes after her arrival, she declared this year's Springfest as her best.
"It's sad that this is my last one, but it's great that I'm going out with a bang," Harris said.
Meanwhile, after putting a dent in their snow cones, Jacky and Quintero surveyed the quad's activities. They watched a girl jump off an inflatable tower and decided that heights weren't on the day's impromptu agenda.
The duo walked past a table stacked with two piles of Springfest t-shirts, one baby blue, the other banana yellow. Jacky eyed the yard sign nearby: "5 Tickets for a Shirt."
"I thought they were supposed to be tank tops," she said.
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Quintero nodded. "How else are you supposed to show off your guns?"
While in line for "Tin Pan Alley," a carnival game where players tossed wiffle balls into cups, Quintero spotted an empty dunk tank.
"Do you want to sit in there and I'll throw?" she asked.
"Why do I have to sit in there?"
"Because I feel like you have better aim than I do," Quintero said.
Jacky's aim proved true enough to win her a single ticket from the carnival game, but neither friend was in the mood for a dip. Instead, they wandered over to an inflatable obstacle course, promising to keep any competitive inklings between them at bay.
Sadly, their race was not meant to be. The person stationed at the obstacle course pointed toward the line of people waiting to get a stamp on their hand, proof they had signed a liability waiver and were free to ride the spinning gravitron, zoom down the zipline or bound through the host of American Ninja Warrior-esque attractions.
As they waited, Quintero noticed the DJ responsible for reminding her of Rihanna's "Umbrella," which drowned out the roaring fans that fueled inflatables.
"I need him to play the yodel boy remix," Quintero said, referring to the Walmart yodeler of internet fame.
Jacky promised to go with her to put in a request, but the two decided that the DJ probably had a fixed playlist for the afternoon.
Impatient, Quintero and Jacky ditched the line in favor of cotton candy and some "Chicken Mac" of their own. In the time it took them to get food, the line to sign a waiver had evaporated. Too full for rides, the duo ditched their plans and grabbed water bottles in order to hydrate before heading uptown.