The idea was simple: bring students together at the year’s beginning to show the smorgasbord of sports, games and non-alcoholic fun the campus has to offer – or, more accurately, a Smorgasport.
Rita Hayes, director of club sports and recreation at California State University, Long Beach, first heard of the idea of an all-night sports festival at campus recreation conferences about 15 years ago. She brought those ideas back with her and it has since grown into a massive event attended by thousands of CSULB students each year.
“I thought, ‘How fun would that be to do something like that on our campus?’” Hayes said. “The whole idea was to show the kids in the residence halls and to show students that you can do fun activities without partying and having alcohol involved.”
Smorgasport brings together clubs, club sports teams, carnival rides and food into one night at the end of Week of Welcome every fall. Danny Lemos, the KBeach faculty media advisor, said that he saw about 4,000 attendees at Smorgasport three years ago. About 5,000 students were in attendance last year.
This year was the event’s biggest celebration yet, Lemos said, noting that ASI had an assessment team to take measurements of how many students attended throughout the night.
“It’s grown like crazy,” Lemos said. “This year topped last year. Just visually, I can see it’s topped. [We expected] almost 6,000 students.”
Smorgasport started small, occupying the University Student Union and the North Lawn, but has now taken over all of Lot 3, the first floor of the USU, part of the Friendship Walk and the Health and Human Services lawn, said Taylor Buhler-Scott, interim program manager.
Hayes said that despite all the space, the university still has more clubs and students willing to participate.
“The challenges are finding enough activity space for everybody,” Hayes said. “Our hockey team wants to have a contest to shoot pucks, and the archery group has their bales of hay out there and they’re shooting arrows, so definitely you have to find safe spaces for these activities.”
While club sports can’t demonstrate very easily in the Quad during Week of Welcome, they take advantage of the space at Smorgasport to show their stuff. The wakeboarding team had students wobbling on an Indo Board balance trainer, the hockey club had a net set up to shoot balls into and the salsa club made room to dance.
Some setups are a little more complicated than others. The rowing team had a screen and projector connected to dry land exercise machines known as Ergs. The Ergs, through wires and cables, tell a computer program how fast someone is rowing on the machine and shows it visually on the screen, similar to a video game.
“Smorgasport is actually our biggest recruiting opportunity of the fall season,” said junior anthropology major and treasurer for the women’s rowing team, Sarah Dresser. “We actually get most of our recruits from this activity. A lot of people are visual learners, so they need to see their boat moving across the screen as opposed to, ‘Hey, come and join us at 5:30 in the morning,’ because that doesn’t work that well.”
To celebrate the anniversary, ASI gave away shirts for Smorgasport designed in the same baseball-tee style as the very first year in 2001. Students stood in a line that wrapped around Brotman Hall for an hour to get their hands on one.
“That’s probably the most important [thing]: Beach Pride,” Lemos said. “That’s what [Smorgasport] reflects. Plus, it really galvanizes the student body at the start of the year. I think that’s what’s really important. We feel like such a family after this is over, it’s like the kick off to fall.”