By Elisa Espinoza
Orca Day is a Whatcom Community College tradition that brings students together to celebrate the ending of the school year one week before finals, through activities and food.
This year, Orca Day will happen on June 5th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will take place between Syre Student Center and the Student Recreation Center, up to the roundabout between SRC and Laidlaw.
Shahrul Kamil Bin Hassan, the ASWCC Vice president for programming and the chair of the Programming and Diversity Board, is in charge of leading Orca Day. An international student from Malaysia, he is majoring in electrical engineering.
Kamil said Orca Day used to be smaller, but the event has evolved as different teams have taken on the responsibility of organizing.
“Over the years, Orca Day has changed and become more festive, but the essence of it has stayed the same,” he said.
Kamil described Orca Day as a “come and go type of event,” since students drop by between classes to have fun.
The main outcomes for Orca Day are to “bring the whole campus together for one last event,” including faculty and staff, said Kamil. Orca Day has been an annual tradition since 1996.
Orca Day is funded through the Student Service and Activity fees. Last year, around $27,000 was spent on the event. Kamil said this year’s budget is $17,000.
“This year we do have a restricted financial situation,” he said.
Because the money funding the event is coming from S&A fees, faculty and staff are invited can register and join the activities however, “To get food they would have to volunteer for I believe an hour,” said Kamil.
Kamil said most of the budget is distributed into the activities and the food trucks. The rest of the budget is dedicated to marketing material like balloons, stickers, flyers and posters.
During Orca Day, clubs are also invited to contribute by leading small games for students using a separate separate Orca Day fund.
Kamil said around 15 clubs are planning to participate.
There are 19 core students and staff members planning the event. This group is divided into different committees, each headed by one leader.
Kamil leads the budget subcommittee, which takes care of “keeping track of the budget available and that we need to make.”
He is also the leader of the logistics subcommittee, which is in charge of “compiling the information that’s being presented by all the other subcommittees,” said Kamil.
The registration subcommittee takes care of the details on how to get students registered for Orca Day, printing the hold harmless agreement and getting the bracelets and food tickets designed.
“This year we invite students to participate in the subcommittee meetings,” said Kamil, and “they can come in and give us input about what they want to see for Orca Day, we want to hear what students want.”
The planning of the event started in fall quarter of 2018.
“It started off with meetings with the staff about their input from last year, and then building a foundation from that, we decide things,” said Kamil.
“In winter quarter we had conversations about what we want to do, what needs to be done and by the start of spring quarter we started executing the things we decided on,” added Kamil.
Lucas Nydam is a former student and coordinator for the Student Life and Development. Nydam was also the president for student body from 2013 to 2014 and part of 2015.
“I remember it being a blast. There was all sorts of large games,” he said about Orca Day.
While being a president, Nydam had many responsibilities, including being the chair of the S&A budget fee committee, in which they established the yearly budget that funds activities such as Orca Day.
Nydam was involved in the planning of the event. He used to oversee and track the different budgets designated for Orca Day. Throughout this process, inclusivity has always been central to the project.
“It is important that everyone feels like there is something in Orca Day that they can do,” he said.
Nydam recalled how Orca Day used to take place in the field where the new buildings are being built. “It used to be more of like a field day experience, whereas now is more of like a carnival sort of thing,” he said.
Kamil said this year the event activity list is comprised of a rock climbing wall, a battle zone, a hamster ball race, and a bounce house provided by the National Event Pros company.
Orca Day will also feature other activities coming from local vendors including henna tattoos, a balloon artist, face painting and an animal pen. The large animals, such as goats and horses will be at the event from 12 to 2 p.m. The smaller animals will stick around for an hour longer.
Kamil said the team will also lead smaller activities like a dodgeball tournament happening from 3 to 4 p.m, a three-legged race, cookie decorating, tie dye clothing, and bath-salt making.
“We want to include as many people as possible for Orca Day,” said Kamil.
To provide food, there are five food trucks confirmed, including Simmering Tava, Back East BBQ, El Tapatio Taco Truck, Cicchitti’s Pizza and Ice Cream from Edaleen.
2014 was the first year food trucks were brought on campus to be part of the Orca Day experience.
“It’s cool to see that that has continued to be a tradition,” said Nydam.
“Typically for Orca Day the number of participants is around 900 students,” said Kamil, as he explained they’re doing their best to market the event throughout the campus to encourage maximum attendance.
Other students commented on their experiences in previous Orca Days and their expectations for this year.
Anna Einfeld is a student at Whatcom and a member of Campus Christian Fellowship. This year will be her third time attending Orca Day.
“It’s a nice end of the year relaxing event,” she said.
The past two times she has attended, Einfeld had tests on the same day.
“You kind of forget about the stress you had before with tests and stuff, so it’s a nice experience and it’s nice that the school puts that on,” she said.
Einfeld has enjoyed the socializing part of the event as well as past activities such as the henna tattoo and the make-your-own-tea table.
“If you’re not a game person then there are other activities that you can do. Everyone has a place to fit in at Orca Day,” she said.
Einfeld plans to join the event this year.
“I’m looking forward again to kicking back again and winding down the school year and just relaxing after class and taking a break from studying,” she said.
Heather Bergeson is also student at Whatcom who works as a Student Ambassador on campus. Bergeson attended last year’s Orca Day and said, “I was blown away with how much they did.”
Bergeson said she had a great time.
“There was great food and I didn’t have to pay for it,” she said.
“I’m hoping that this year Orca Day feels like an all day kind of thing, like you want to stay the whole time,” said Bergeson, adding that she felt she had done everything there was to do in a short amount of time.
Kamil also talked about his personal expectations. “We’re spending quite a lot of money, and students should make the best out of it. We want them to enjoy themselves,” said Kamil.
He stressed on some instructions for students. Kamil said on Orca Day, students can’t park in the parking lot between Syre and the Student Pavilion, and he added “anything you can’t do on campus you can’t do on Orca Day.”
Kamil said when students register they will get a bracelet, a ticket to redeem the food and they will have to sign the hold harmless agreement. The registration process will begin a few days before the event, but students can also register the same day.
The team is also looking for volunteers who are interested in helping with coordinating the small activities and supervising certain areas. Volunteers will receive an Orca Day t-shirt.
“Students should attend Orca Day because it is the big culminating event of the year,” and “the main takeaway is just celebrating your time here at Whatcom,” said Nydam.
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