Tents, like particolored mushroom caps, staked their nylon roots in wide fairy rings across the green grounds of the UCF Arboretum. Christmas lights glimmered in the boughs of trees.
Twice each year, the Campus Peace Action club hosts a music and art festival called Tent City. For seven days and six nights, students and strangers alike are invited to dance, play and participate in workshops hosted and performed by members of CPA and the local community.
“We have Tent City to promote Campus Peace Action’s mission statement of turning fear into understanding, intolerance into acceptance and apathy into action through creativity, community and education at UCF,” said Nicole Medina, CPA’s acting president and a senior French and international and global studies double major. “We figured the best way to do that was through love, hence the name, Tent City: Love.”
The event — now in its 13th iteration — traces its origins back to a protest against the Iraq war hosted in front of the John C. Hitt Library in 2003. Since then, Tent City has evolved and taken on new meaning, transitioning from a single-issue event to a biannual space where students are invited to freely explore their inner selves in the companionship of a caring and tolerant community.
“I really enjoy it because it’s a super open and accepting atmosphere where people can feel comfortable with the free exchange of ideas and concepts,” said James Soper, a junior sociology major. “You get to meet a lot of quality people; because of the accepting and welcoming atmosphere, you really get to open up and be yourself.”
Each day of the event is devoted to a different meditation on the theme of love: love of others, love of self, creative love, love of earth and more. Educational workshops run the gamut, from Islam Q&As to bracelet-making, and each evening features either an open mic night or performances by local bands and poets.
Veterans of Tent City advised that the best way to experience the event was to approach each day with an open mind and a willingness to break away from stultifying schedules and routines. They spoke of ad hoc adventures, where groups of explorers broke away from planned events to climb trees on campus or how discussions over food became philosophical ruminations on the nature of life and society.
Some hoped to party; some hoped to relax; and some, like the week’s namesake, hoped to find love.
“In Tent City, things usually turn out how they turn out — that’s just how it is,” said Drew Freeburn, CPA’s vice president and a junior hospitality major. “You can never really expect something to happen: The best thing to do is just to let it unfold and let the chips fall where they may.”
TENT CITY: LOVE
The festival takes place at the UCF Arboretum through Saturday.