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Finding Renn Fayre in the land of the lost

When this year’s seniors, smiling and wet with champagne, began gathering for the thesis parade on Friday afternoon, the Reed community crossed its fingers and hoped for the best. After last year’s staggering damage report of over $15,000, more than a good time was at stake with this year’s Renn Fayre.

Renn Fayre 1At first glance, the crowd of dancers and singers, of revelers and kissers, seemed every bit as reckless and exotic as last year. Yet, if the casual observer might not have noticed a difference, any Reedie could feel it. The spirit of Renn Fayre had changed, and changed for the better.

In this “Land of the Lost,” pirates set sail, a Trojan horse battled Vikings, and Alice hosted a midnight tea party in Wonderland. For the first time, students and faculty members were invited to create themed projects with their academic departments. With enthusiasm and creativity, as well as occasional stealth, the departments embraced the challenge. Biology spiraled a giant DNA helix around the cross-canyon bridge, linguistics stacked a Jenga tower of Babel, philosophy modeled Raphael’s School of Athens, mathematics produced robot wars, and a physics UFO descended on unwary passers-by.

At night, papier-mâché lanterns shone in the trees and fireworks twinkled in the sky, while students dashed to the glo-opera. Huddled tight in the amphitheatre, the audience erupted with applause as Max began his voyage across the seas to Where the Wild Things Are. A surreal mix of theatreand glo-sticks, the performance of Maurice Sendak’s bedtime favorite was an instant success. Although quieter, Sunday’s mashed potato wrestling proved delightfully festive and gross.

Renn Fayre 2Yet, if the flashy spectacles of Renn Fayre occupied most of the spotlight, this year also provided an abundance of mellow retreats for exhausted Reedies. Perhaps most pleasant, alumni, faculty, and staff volunteers hosted a communal coffeehouse with free drinks, bakery treats, and live music for quiet relaxation. In addition, organizations such as Karma Patrol and Border Patrol helped foster a safe, Reed-only environment, while the Kleen-up Krew allowed students to take part in the cleaning process.

Overall, last year’s atmosphere of wild abandon had been replaced by an often surprisingly calm sense of responsibility. Certainly Renn Fayre was just as fun, mysterious, and delightful as ever, yet it also felt slightly more caring, slightly less extreme. Somewhere amidst the twists and turns of this Land of the Lost, the old spirit of Renn Fayre had been found at last
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