Kelper Maurer-alcala had zip-lined before, but never in the heart of downtown Denver. For the freshman digital animation major in the College of Arts and Media (CAM), zooming down Lawrence Street was just one of the draws at CU Denver’s 4th Annual Block Party.
“I am meeting a ton of cool people and saw a lot of cool, little booths,” Maurer-alcala said. “I love the food trucks. The Block Party has great vibes.”
CU Denver’s Block Party, held August 20, kicked off the academic year in a big way. In just three hours, more than 3,000 staff, students, faculty and community members gathered on Lawrence St. between Speer and 14th to listen to live music, eat food from nine food trucks and visit 40 booths staffed by CU Denver schools, colleges, and student organizations. Whether they came for free food, to play games, or meet peers in a fun environment, attendees walked away with smiles on their faces.
“It is pretty dope,” said India Feaster, junior, ethnic studies major in CAM. “I think it gets everyone together. You definitely meet a lot of people, the professors are feeling good and you’re feeling good.”
A tense moment
The pressure was on for Justin Nguyen, a junior biology major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, as he held his last beanbag. He was testing his aim at the University Communications booth. The challenge before Nguyen was to throw three bags into the baskets of B-Cycle bikes sporting CU Denver Learn with Purpose branding. He had thrown five, made two and needed to sink one more to win a T-shirt. He took a breath and took his shot. The bag gently arced and landed with a soft thump in the basket. He won.
“The third try I was kind of nervous,” Nguyen said. “For my last three throws there was a lot of pressure. Everyone was watching, but I got it!”
The need for speed
“We’re hoping our car will top out in the 60–70 mph range,” said Richard Wojcik, senior mechanical engineering major.
Wojcik is part of the senior design team from the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS). The team will be building and designing an open-wheeled, open-cockpit, formula-style racecar for SAE International, an intercollegiate competition that sees students designing and building a vehicle to race against other universities.
Looking to recruit more team members, Wojcik and the team brought out last year’s car and used the Block Party to recruit team members and raise awareness.
“We’re hoping to draw interest from other people to show you don’t have to be an engineering student to do something like this,” Wojcik said. “It is truly a team effort to get this done. It works out pretty well, because then you get to put it on a resume.”
Urban campus becomes global experience
A booth sponsored by the ESL Academy and the Global Education offices under the Office of International Affairs let attendees see their names written in several different languages. While students walked away with their names scrawled with colorful ink in Russian and Chinese, staff members hoped they also took something else with them.
“We’re probably the coolest department on campus,” said Kseniya Kreyman, ESL program coordinator.
“We want students to know that they have the opportunity to study abroad here at CU Denver,” said Jessica Tharp, Asia study abroad coordinator. “We have 30 short-term programs led by faculty that take students abroad to other countries.”
Families get in on the fun
Joshua Knight, a CEAS faculty member, had his work cut out for him. He needed to keep track of a tiger, a mouse, a masquerader, and a girl adorned with cherry blossoms. Luckily he had help from his wife, Rachel. They had stopped by a booth featuring face painting, and the kids were loving their alter egos.
“That is the most beautiful face painting I have ever seen in my life,” Knight said.
This is the first year Knight has brought his family along to the Block Party. He planned to show his kids the zip line, play games, and pick up some freebies and treats from the booths. With all of the fun the kids are having, Knight thinks they could be Lynx in the making.
“Our oldest is 11, so they won’t be Lynx anytime soon, but we sure hope so,” Knight said.
Police on the scene
The Auraria Police Department was on site at the Block Party to get to meet the community. Nadine Atencio, Auraria community officer, and other members of the department team were on hand to answer questions, greet guests and deputize some new, young officers.
“I like to talk to kids so they feel comfortable around us,” Atencio said. “A lot of times they see our uniforms and feel intimidated, so we are giving them sticker badges. CU Denver is one of our neighborhoods, so we like to come out and support the school and get to know our community.”
Community coming together
Campus leaders also look forward to the Block Party. Laurence Kaptain, dean of the College of Arts and Media, doesn’t miss the chance to meet students and community members, and be a part of the excitement.
“It inspires me to see how our faculty, staff and students come together with the city and have something like this that is open to everybody,” Kaptain said. “I think it is important for students, especially those from out of state who don’t know a lot of people, to meet folks. I think the informational aspect—the colleges, schools and organizations having the booths—is very helpful. A lot of students come to CU Denver with something specific in mind, but I think it is also good for them to see what is being offered here that they can take advantage of.”
Kaptain also sees the event as a show of how CU Denver is a part of the city.
“I think the Block Party is very symbolic of how easy CU Denver integrates with the city.”