Welcome Back Bash offers music, activities for students


Joy Cao | Senior Staff Photographer

A Pitt student gets “Pitt” airbrushed on their arm at Saturday’s Welcome Back Bash.

By Lynnette Tibbott, Staff Writer

Equipped with a bouncy castle, laser tag, rock climbing wall, a photobooth and more, hundreds of students gathered on Schenley Drive Saturday to celebrate the first in-person start of a school year since fall 2019 due to lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pitt Program Council (PPC) hosted the Welcome Back Bash at Schenley Drive. Students waited in the ticket lines to get wristbands for the activities, while others waited to use the outdoor photobooth with their friends. Despite the crowd, many students were smiling, laughing and talking with friends over the sound of upbeat pop music. 

PPC said on Pitt’s events calendar that Welcome Back Bash would be a night of fun and games for all undergraduate Pitt students.

“There will be carnival style games with prizes, inflatables, food and more,” the organization said. “This event will kick off the start of the school year.” 

Mac Becker, a senior and studio arts major, reminisced about their days as a first-year in 2019 during a similar event. They said Welcome Back Bash reminded them of Pitt’s lively environment before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I remembered going to a big event when I was in my first year,” Becker said. “There were so many people. It excited me as much as it overwhelmed me at the time. Seeing it now is like getting to relive a part of that same feeling, especially since COVID changed the way we had to view social interactions.”

Becker added they were drawn to the atmosphere and vibrance of the event.

“It’s been a minute since I can remember we’ve had something like this,” Becker said. “I just wanted to get out here and meet new people, share good vibes and have fun.”

Chuck Conners, owner of Ego Imaging Entertainment, a local event and entertainment planning service, said he has participated in organizing and working events like the Welcome Back Bash for more than 50 years. 

Conners said although the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing restrictions affected his business’ ability to host in-person events, it was possible this year to nearly get back to normal. 

“We were shut down for a while after COVID everything was canceled in March 2020. Like, everything,” Conners said. “I enjoy doing this. Things slowly came back, but now it seems to be in full swing.” 

Conners said although his company travels to different universities, such as Slippery Rock and Seton Hill, Pitt is special because of its ideal location and staff.

“It’s a beautiful area. We had all day to chill and hang out and see the sights,” Conner said. “[Welcome Back Bash] is an excellent event. The school does a really good job of managing it and doing all the legwork to make it happen.” 

Anna Vorobiev, a senior molecular biology major, said the Welcome Back Bash was a great way to bring students together before classes begin.

“Classes can be stressful, and we only have a few days before they start,” Vorobiev said. “I think this event was a great way to build some community within our University, as well as just have fun.”

Neil Dunmore, an event DJ who worked the photobooth at Welcome Back Bash, said the most memorable aspect of the event was the sheer number of students that showed up for the event.

“It looks like it’s gonna be a busy night,” Dunmore said, noting it was only 10 p.m. “It’s nice weather, so that’s a good thing.”

Despite the crowds and long lines, Pitt students explored the event’s vendors and activities with friends. For some students and event workers, Welcome Back Bash represented more than just a crowded event, Becker said. 

“It’s my last year here at Pitt and I want to make the most of it,” Becker said. “I’m cautious of the risk of COVID, but it’s definitely an amazing feeling to come out here and see so many people outside. It feels like I’m back in my first year and it gives me hope that we can approach a new and better normal.”