Tent City has been a fixture at UCF for more than a decade.
The weeklong, biannual camping event, which started in 2003 as a sit-in protest against the Iraq War, has taken on a life all its own.
Each year, as members of UCF's Campus Peace Action come and go, the aesthetic of the event changes to reflect the values of its organizers.
It's a nod to that ephemeral, shifting history that this year’s Tent City, held at the Arboretum Nov. 9 to 14, was subtitled “Rising.” To rise is to stand up after a fall, or to meet a challenge — for the newly minted executives of CPA, it was both.
“What happened last year is that it was the older members and us, the newer members,” said Agustin Martinez, president of CPA and a senior psychology major. “They basically told us that it was our turn to do this. A lot of the responsibility kind of fell into the middle and wasn't grabbed onto by anyone. It was up to us.”
Martinez said that the departure of CPA’s old members allowed he and his core group of volunteers to put their own mark on Tent City. While the event kept its mainstay of bands, workshops (ranging in subject from active listening and painting to sustainable living) and camping, the eclectic crowd at the event was a distinct departure from its roots as a sit-in protest.
“We wanted to get as many people, and as many diverse people, as we could,” said Sigga Thorbjornsson, vice president of CPA and a sophomore environmental studies major. “We passed out around 600 fliers outside the Union and in front of the library. We have such a diverse group of people here, and you get to learn so much from everybody. I love that learning aspect — getting to know people you wouldn't meet anywhere else.”
Lowen Gruseck, a UCF electrical engineering alumnus and the former president of CPA, said that the crowd he met during his visit Monday was distinctly different from that of previous years.
“There was definitely a more eclectic crowd this year,” Gruseck said. “During my time at CPA, Tent City was mostly hippies. They seemed to attract a pretty diverse crowd [this time].”
Martinez said that the success of this semester’s Tent City inspired CPA to host another in the spring. While he admitted that there were certain challenges that remained — namely, navigating the bureaucracy of SGA, which has final say on any events that Registered Student Organizations host on school property — Martinez was confident that the organization was capable of rising to the occasion once again.
“What we were trying to preserve and in a way bring back was the passion and the involvement in creating a community, in caring about it, in wanting it and putting in the effort to make it great — which I think we did,” Martinez said.
Bernard Wilchusky is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.