Students pack Pete for Student Activities Fair

By Gwenn Barney

Students packed the Petersen Events Center Sunday afternoon — and it wasn’t for a basketball… Students packed the Petersen Events Center Sunday afternoon — and it wasn’t for a basketball game.

About 285 Pitt student organizations gathered for the 2011 Student Activities Fair, which was held at the Pete for the first time.

Before the event, the Student Organization Resource Center predicted more than 6,000 students would attend this year’s three-hour-long fair.

The elbow-to-elbow human traffic on the Pete’s concourse level at 2 p.m. ostensibly confirmed the estimate. Students jostled and weaved their way through three levels of the stadium, which was lined with tables that each represented a group at Pitt.

Some organizations’ members didn’t wait for students to reach their tables and instead went out to seek potential members actively. Pitt rowing team members Sam Nardone and Rob Walker greeted students before they even hit the Pete’s steps, their blue and yellow rowing oars peeking out over the heads of the hordes of students walking up the hill.

“This is where we get the big starter class, and from there it whittles down,” Walker said. “This is definitely the biggest recruiting event we have during the year.”

Some students weren’t even planning on attending the event until they saw the large group of students walking en masse toward upper campus.

“I wasn’t planning on going,” freshman Dean Zaslow said. “But then I saw a group of people on my floor in Towers leaving for the fair, and I joined in.”

The event was previously hosted in Posvar Hall, but a lack of adequate space prompted the decision to move the event from Posvar to the Pete.

“The event just grew to be too large for Posvar,” said Gina Scozzaro, business manager at SORC. “The number of organizations in the fair have been pretty much the same for the last three or four years. We’ve pretty much maxed out the space we are in.”

Many students who had attended past fairs felt the move from Posvar to the Pete was a good choice.

“I think Posvar was much more ‘in your face,’” senior Maria Gerardi said. “It’s so much better here. It’s not as congested.”

Cornerstone Church members took the biblical advice “Seek, and you shall find” to heart. They used some “super” help, employing Spider-Man, Batman and the Black Power Ranger to hand out fliers advertising their church located across from Litchfield Towers.

“People like to take fliers from Spider-Man. They’re like, ‘I can’t say no to Spider-Man,’” said the masked crusader, who told The Pitt News under the condition of anonymity that his true identity is Peter Parker.

Cornerstone wasn’t the only club that used costumes to catch students’ eyes.

The captains of Steel City Bhangra, an Indian-style dance team, wore their Vardi dance costumes to the fair. Captain Sid Pandit, who donned bright yellow and bejeweled garb with a matching hat, said the costume was successful in attracting students to the team’s booth.

The traditional method of free swag to pull in the passersby was in full effect. Organizations handed out pens, shirts, bags and other superfluous — but always welcome — giveaways. Many students, though not solely attending the fair for the free items, were pleased by the prospect of picking up free accoutrements for their dorm rooms.

“I wanted to see what other people were interested in, to look at different types of engineering clubs and clubs outside of engineering, too. I want to be well-rounded,” freshman Zachary Smith said. “Free stuff is also nice.”

Some groups were creative with their giveaways. Pittsburgh Fencing Association member Kayla Thomason created and passed out balloon-art swords to students checking out her club’s table outside on the upper plaza.

Nearby, life imitated art as the Chinese Martial Arts Association displayed real swords.

“It’s amazing,” member David Tringali said. “The crowd that will gather to see shiny and bright things.”

The club presented sparring and sword demonstrations on a mat set on the outdoor plaza level.

When the fair ended, many students said they felt pleased with their sign-ups for the day.

“I signed up for everything that interested me,” freshman Yaleh Asadi said. “Now it’s just a matter of what I’ll show up for.”