This year, I did what few Syracuse students (just kidding, there were more SU kids than you’d think) dare to do: attended RedFest. This traditional post-Mayfest extravaganza is labeled, ridiculed, and heralded as an ESF event. Like, exclusively for tree-huggers. But that’s just from the outside.

Once inside, there’s a whole lot more to RedFest than meets the eye. It’s a lot of things – a chain of house parties, a day drink, an outdoor concert, a charity event – but above all, it’s inclusive, it’s light-hearted, and it’s really fun.

At the door, people were collecting $5 for Helping Hounds Dog Rescue, one of several charities voted for on the Redfest 2015 Facebook Page (yes, RedFest is a charity event. Mayfest is not. ESF 1, SU 0).

Comparing this event to Mayfest is a little tricky, since they are very different events that for whatever reason, SU and ESF students feel extremely opinionated about. But if we’re talking style, Redfest wins. (Sorry, ‘Cuse). There were lots of ESF sweatshirts – which is how I learned that ESF’s official mascot is, indeed, the Mighty Oaks – but there were also such incredible outfits that were not only inventive, but distinct from one another. It was warmer than Mayfest, but you can only see so many football/basketball/hockey/baseball jerseys before everyone begins to blur into one big jock before your very eyes. While some of RedFest’s attendees weren’t exactly stylish – one of the performers wore a hospital gown – they were functional. I’m talking utility belts for holding liquor.

UTILITY BELTS. SU, WHY HAVEN’T WE THOUGHT OF THIS.

In terms of guys, there are a few words that could be used to describe them all: bandanas, manbuns, beards. Lots of exposed calves. Flannels and cutoffs mingled with overalls and plain button-ups in a fascinating ecosystem of outdoorsy, masculine chic. And there was Syracuse attire too! Go Orange, amirite?

Girls dressed in all kinds of getups, from kimonos and lacy crop tops to regular jeans and jackets. Everything was in the accessories. There were long braids and short sassy cuts, body tattoos and sparkly sunglasses. And joints, of course.

In fact, there was a lot of smoke. Not just weed, but cigars, cigarettes, vaporizers – a cloud of nicotine sat above the crowd as hands waved through the air, jamming to the multiple bands playing. There was so much enthusiasm from the crowd, RedFest felt like a legitimate outdoor concert rather than a small setup in a backyard.

Aside from the stage, there were also KanJams set up, and posters of the ESF chancellor were being distributed in the back. There was hula-hooping and bubble-blowing. However, attendees seemed most content just mingling with one another.

One glaring similarity between Mayfest and RedFest was, predictably, alcohol consumption. But the attendees of RedFest, since it isn’t an official ESF-affiliated event, were free to bring alcohol onto the premises. People were able to bring entire cases of beer, without any paper-bagging or sneaking bottles under clothes. Groups huddled around their beers in circles, protecting their spoils. But there was also a lot of inclusivity and good vibes.

For a photographic account of the party check out our gallery here.

Photo by Rikki Schneiderman