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April 15, 2005

Brick Fest 2005

From: Reporter Magazine, Rochester, NY - Apr 15, 2005

Friendly Competition from Ping-Pong to Partay

by Austin McChord and Benjamin Foster
April 15, 2005

Tigers roared at the BrickFest Pep Rally. "We may not be able to hear the sound, but we can feel it," said Charles Sterling. "Stomp your feet so you can feel the noise." Sterling, the President of the NTID Student Congress (NSC), who hosted the event, directed the Pep Rally. The crowd was excited--some had come from as far away as California for this weekend. It's hard to really think of RIT as a party destination for anything, but for students participating in BrickFest it was.

BrickFest is an event put together by members of NTID and other deaf colleges, alternating each year between RIT and Gallaudet in Washington, D.C. The Pep Rally is just the tip of the iceberg, as students and former students come to RIT for games and some crazy partying. "Deaf culture tends to be a small world and it is really spread out, so you have something like [BrickFest so] everybody can condense for a weekend and socialize and enjoy each others' company," said Jon Jeune, an assistant chairperson for the event.

The pep rally kicked off BrickFest Friday night, but events continued non-stop into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Saturday began with a day of fairly relaxed sporting. Games like dodgeball, basketball, and flag football filled the day until 5:30 at night. For the less athletically inclined, ping-pong, billiards, darts, and poker were also available. The crowds were substantial, and as the games were primarily a deaf/hard of hearing (HOH) event--NTID students were out in full force.

In a way, all of the festivities were pre-gaming for the huge party that night in downtown Rochester. Students from both RIT and Gallaudet were welcome to attend, and it was definitely not just a deaf/HOH event. As Charles Sterling said in an open letter to Student Government, "I do not know if you can see it, but there is an invisible line between your and our cultures. I am putting my effort to reach toward your culture, so integration of deaf/HOH and hearing students can be done in the long run, but would you do the same to us? ...Come and join us, we welcome you."

The party itself was a grand affair at downtown nightclub Tiki Bob's, complete with unlimited free food and non-alcoholic drinks (with alcohol available for those of age to purchase). Four professional deaf DJs spun music for a no-holds-barred party. Even after a full day or sports, the party didn't wind down until 2 a.m. But was it really over? Of course not! A post-party starting around two provided more food, casino style games, a climbing wall, and sumo wrestling. Those who still had the energy to stand stuck around until the glimmer of the morning sun.

For deaf students from RIT, Gallaudet, and elsewhere, this event is massive. If you ask the rest of the RIT population about BrickFest, they are likely to say, "You mean Brick City?" NSC puts on a great show and advertises well within NTID, but has had difficulties breaching barriers that separate the deaf/HOH community from the wider RIT community. Trying to include Student Government and putting up advertisements helped, so hopefully in future years this massive party be will be looked forward to as eagerly by hearing students, as by their deaf and hard of hearing colleagues.

© 2005 Reporter Magazine On-Line