One of the quirks of living in Tucson is our short spring. From a winter of only a few months and lows in the 50s, the supremacy of the sun brings with it a very immediate transition from the half-cold months of January, February and March into the hot months of June, July and August. That short, almost two-month transition is our Tucson spring, so whenever we have to start turning our ACs back on, that is the sign that Spring Fling is once again upon us.
A mainstay of campus activities since 1974, Spring Fling brings together the Tucson community and the student body better than almost any other event held on campus. The benefits of Spring Fling are two-fold: while being a pretty enjoyable way to distract yourself from rapidly approaching finals, it is also a major economic boost for the city and helps keep the University of Arizona local.
Every year, over 25,000 people come on campus to take part in its activities, from great local food and amusement rides to arts and crafts. By participating in the process, students at the University of Arizona are patronizing the many businesses invited to campus to provide food and entertainment to the many guests. The economic benefits of Spring Fling are huge. So many people coming to campus and spending their money at booths around the university means businesses get name recognition, a large customer base and an environment that encourages people to sample their goods. In addition, Spring Fling differs from the more distant Pima County Fair, which is held way outside of town off the highway, making it difficult for those who live farther in Tucson or only have access to public transportation. Since the University of Arizona is more geographically central, more people can visit, not only to ride the rides, but also to experience the atmosphere of Tucson.
Although not as tangible as the economic impact of Spring Fling, the university’s continued patronage of the many businesses of Tucson helps keep our university interlinked with Tucson and its community. Many students come here from out of state, and Spring Fling is a good way to make the city more personal and easy to connect with for those students. It helps tie the campus to Arizona and gives the university a more unique and specifically local atmosphere to it, which is important for a college to encourage. It may not seem obvious at first, but the coming together of thousands of Tucsonans on campus also helps make the university a more welcoming and open site not divorced from the rest of the city. And if the university ever lost that openness, we risk losing touch with the people whose taxes pay our budget and whose students fill our classes.
The criticisms often levied against Spring Fling are legitimate, however. Tickets for rides are expensive, and for the three days the fair is in town, parking is a nightmare, hurting those students who are not interested in attending but are still stuck paying for it in lost time and convenience. In past years, I often avoid the rides entirely to save money, and I empathize with anyone who feels bad parting with over thirty dollars for a pass to the rides for the day. However, when you consider the pay structure of the Pima County Fair, whose rides have such insanely high ticket costs to ride you essentially have to drop the 35 dollars required to get a day pass, it does not seem as wild. And even further, I normally just attend the fair to enjoy the food and walk around with friends, so even those who do not want to put down so much money have ways to stay entertained.
While parking gets exceptionally tricky for the three day affair. That it is concentrated on Friday, Saturday and Sunday means most students are not likely to be punished for the fair, as the hotspots for visitors are on days with either no classes or fewer classes. This limits the total damage done and makes the situation better for everyone; fewer students taking classes during the fair means less competition for parking and means students are free to participate with their free time. Altogether, Spring Fling is a great community activity for both the campus and the city of Tucson, despite complaints made in the past.
Alec Scott is a Junior studying Political Science and German Studies who hates parking but loves food booths