Welcome, freshmen, to Isla Vista, the beachside beer-bubble community that will play host to the majority of your exploits and misadventures over the next four years. Compared with her various college town peers, I.V. may have earned herself somewhat of a wild child reputation. But this hussy has heart, and what makes I.V. great is the palpable sense of community among its spirited student population.
The following is a brief synopsis of some of Isla Vista’s most popular events to help you get the most out of this first year in our beachside paradise.
Inarguably Isla Vista’s most notorious party, Halloween in I.V. is a Carnival-esque spectacle not to be missed. For the past 30 years, visitors from far and wide have flocked to I.V. on this most haunted of eves to parade the streets masquerading as pirates, nurses, scantily clad forest creatures and the occasional red party cup.
A tradition that began in the early 1970s, the I.V. Halloween street party reached its peak in 1992, when Playboy named it the #1 party in the country, prompting some 50,000 revelers to flood our small beach town. Since then, major crackdown campaigns on the part of law enforcement and the university have significantly reduced the scope of the Halloween festivities, and subsequently the parties of recent years have been comparatively tame. These days, a Halloween in I.V. is a four- or five-night event — yes, you will need a new costume for each night — that resembles the drunken love child of a rock concert and Mardi Gras minus the live music.
Halloween’s most blatant drawbacks generally stem the hoards of outsiders — visitors who make the trek for the party, but don’t have the hometown respect — that can put a strain on local resources, and our patience. Overcrowding, vandalism and just plain obnoxious out-of-towners are common buzzkills associated with this holiday. However, these partiers are also easy pickings for the hordes of law enforcement officers that descend on I.V. that weekend.
Luckily, other events throughout the year have a decidedly more local feel to them, and are central to maintaining Isla Vista’s community spirit. In recent years, Chilla Vista, a biannual outdoor music festival in I.V.’s Anisq’ Oyo’ Park hosted by the Isla Vista Community Relations Committee, has drawn large crowds. The festival features live music and activities ranging from tug of war to face painting.
I.V.’s annual Earth Day Festival, also, brings out residents for some good old-fashioned food, music, body painting and bubble-related fun. Both of these events are the sort that people tend to wear tie-dye to, and the telltale perfume of a certain sticky herb hangs over the community.
But the true celebration of what some would call I.V.’s unofficial local flower — or, more accurately, plant — comes on the day of the Annual Joint Rolling Competition, hosted by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. This auspicious local tradition, first conceived in the seventies and reborn in recent years, is an unprecedented demonstration of stoner-organization. Marijuana enthusiasts gather in one of the many local parks and partake in a series of competitions for titles such as “Fattest Fatty” and “Primo Joint.” Don’t get too excited though; these J’s are packed with strictly legal herbs that won’t get you high.
Not a fan of the ganja scene? You may find the annual All-Sorority Volleyball Tournament to be more your bag. Hosted by the Alpha Tao Omega each Spring Quarter, this daylong, booze-fueled competition is an opportunity for students to display their hard-earned beach bodies. In recent years, the sheer size of the event has forced it downtown, but there are chartered buses hired to ferry students back and forth from I.V. Think MTV Spring Break, minus the cameras.
A more low-key beachside tradition is the increasingly popular and often spontaneous Floatopia. This loosely organized, unofficial holiday — which does not have any set date and can occur multiple times in a year — consists of students bringing rafts and beer down to I.V.’s beach. Fittingly, the day is spent floating lazily in the cool Pacific. Rafts are sometimes constructed by the students themselves, but are more often the blow-up variety available at Costco. Keep an eye out for this event on Facebook, the forum where consensus is typically formed on the date of the “official” Floatopia.
Whether or not you participate in these local festivities, make it a point to venture off campus some time during your freshman year to get a feel for the I.V. scene. She may be intimidating in all her raucous Friday night glory, but I.V. can be a sunny and nurturing community where memories — if you manage to keep any — and friends will be made and kept long after your four years here are up.