Springtime in Athens can bring many different things. It could snow in late March, or it could be 70 degrees and sunny. But if one thing remains constant year to year, it’s the smell of beer wafting up the street and sound of rap music blaring from cheap speakers in the distance.
Springtime signifies the inevitable return of fests.
I came to OU for the reputation of Scripps (specifically the photojournalism program). When I first joined the Class of 2018 Facebook page, I saw my future classmates talking about how much they looked forward to fest season and watched videos of Athens, well, happening.
Honestly, I was pretty surprised at first. I knew that wasn’t really my scene. But I was sheltered in high school. When I came to Athens, I sort of eased into the whole party culture. By the time my first fest season rolled around, I was excited and ready to dive in and document the festivities.
It all started with Milliron Fest. I went out with a photojournalism friend, Calvin Mattheis, a former Post photographer who proved through the years to be quite adept at photographing fests.
The next day was a very muddy Mill Fest, but I had a blast walking around and taking it all in. I walked up and down the street from 12:30 p.m. until about 4 p.m., photographing beer bonging, ponging and chugging alike. I found some hula hoopers and poi twirlers and bands.
Some of my fellow photojournalism students don’t enjoy photographing fests. As I see it, you just have to get there at the right time. If people aren’t drunk enough, they won’t enjoy being photographed. But when one arrives at the right time, everything just falls into line.
Until people start screaming “Mill Fest 2015, baby!” at the first sight of a camera. Nothing bothers me more than having to deal with such individuals. But when I can capture those perfect candid party moments, it’s great. And somehow I end up getting more compliments from people after they have a few drinks in them. Drunk strangers are usually quite friendly, especially to the guy with a camera.
During my freshman year, I also partnered up with former Postie Joshua Lim to produce the High Fest 2015 video, which is now our fourth highest viewed video on YouTube, behind two other fest videos and Tumbles the puppy.
The following spring, with another year of experience under my belt, I set out to document the happenings of fest season again. I warmed up by taking photos on Green Beer Day, then went out to photograph Mill Fest just a few days later.
I still had a blast documenting the festivities, but I felt my work wasn’t quite as strong as my first year. I don’t know whether I wasn’t as fresh and excited as year one or if I was just too busy with other schoolwork, but I still have some decent images.
The next “fest” I photographed after that was Pickle Fest at Bagel Street Deli, which was a hoot in its own right. I mean, watching anybody shove nearly 10 large pickles into their mouth in 10 minutes is nothing short of pure entertainment.
I did make a video from High Fest 2016 as well, but something also just didn’t feel quite as novel and cool as freshman year. It can be a challenge to make new images and content from similar events that happen year after year.
But in my junior year now, I’m feeling more confident than ever in my photojournalism abilities, and I am eagerly anticipating the start of fest season again. Athens, bring it on.
See some of my favorite images from all the fests I’ve attended in the gallery above.