Llamapalooza 2021: creating a COVID-safe music festival
Plus, some professors on lab and field study courses during the pandemic
Good morning, and happy Wednesday. On this pandemic date last year, Colorado College economics professor Dan Johnson participated in a KRDO town hall with Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, in which they discussed their ‘quarantine activity boxes.’ (This year, Johnson appeared in the news again in an article about stimulus money during the pandemic).
Today, we go behind the scenes of a pandemic Llamapalooza. Plus, what lab and field study classes have looked like over the course of the pandemic.
➡️ICYMI: On Monday, our resident microbiologist Phoebe Lostroh gave her weekly forecast for El Paso County. She also explained how viral evolution affects young people.
✨New Contributors Alert: At the end of the block, Lorea Zabaleta ‘23 and Esteban Candelaria ‘21 will step back from The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. Please give a warm welcome, and a Twitter follow, to Will Taylor ‘23 and Ellie Gober ‘24.
✉️In Your Inbox:
On Thursday, CC Communications sent out an update about the college’s new, “more efficient” system for weekly COVID-19 testing, which will send out invitations to members of the campus community ahead of time to remind them to be tested.
On Friday, Acting Co-Presidents Mike Edmonds and Robert G. Moore sent out a message commending the CC community for their help in mitigating the pandemic on campus, and acknowledging the pressure COVID-19 has brought to students, faculty, and staff.
On Monday, CC Communications sent out an email about Summer Session protocols for arrival to campus and classroom procedures. These protocols and procedures include guidelines for arriving students that have not yet been vaccinated to return to campus, arrival testing, and general campus access.
📃TAKE THIS SURVEY: We have put together a survey for CC students to gather data on what they think about their own and others’ behaviors throughout this pandemic school year.
✨New Contributors Alert: At the end of the block, Lorea Zabaleta ‘23 and Esteban Candelaria ‘21 will step back from The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. Please give a warm welcome to Will Taylor ‘23 and Ellie Gober ‘24.
Photo courtesy of Augie Voss ‘23
🎭 Making in-person music safe? No prob-Llama
While the pandemic has wreaked havoc on many of the on-campus activities Colorado College students hold dear, live musical performances have been one of the things that has been affected the most.
But now, as more and more Americans receive vaccines for COVID-19, live performances have slowly begun to return throughout the United States.
Last year, Llamapalooza, CC’s annual live music festival, was canceled by the college due to COVID-19 — but this year, CC students and staff have brought the festival back, with some modifications to make it safe during the pandemic.
A pandemic Llamapalooza
This year, Llamapalooza is being held over the three Saturdays of Block 8, which according to Amy Hill, director of Campus Activities and Student Orientation, was in part to alleviate Zoom fatigue.
“We want to still support art, and we still want to support artists,” Hill told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “But we don’t want people to be Zoom-fatigued.”
While the college will not be hosting live musical performances on campus for the event this year, the Llamapalooza planning committee has planned for students to enjoy the festival on campus with in-person showings of the acts.
At one time, up to 100 students are allowed in the venue area of the festival, which has a screen that performances have been projected on, as long as those students remain masked at all times, sign up before attending, and stay socially distanced from others.
The Llamapalooza planning committee also established ‘Grab-and-Go Saturdays,’ which were events that provided food and art exhibits for festival-goers.
“We did have people outside dancing socially distanced in front of the screen, and having kind of a more normal festival, conference experience, but masked, socially distanced, etc.,” Hill said.
Precautions for COVID-19
While planning for Llamapalooza this year, the festival’s planning committee had to account for the pandemic with a variety of safety protocols.
That was why Hill helped put together a proposal in April with students, which said that in-person events in the spring would require students to remain masked all of the time, show proof that they had been recently tested, and sit in assigned, socially-distanced seating.
Llamapalooza has also had staff COVID monitors who have ensured that festival-goers abide by pandemic safety guidelines, Hill said.
These protocols, along with additional screening and preregistration for events, were pitched to the Scientific Advisory Group, who approved the plan.
“When campus [is] in ‘Level 1’, the Scientific Advisory Group is saying that outdoor events should be no larger than 100 students,” Hill said. “So we’re limiting the capacity of all of our events and having clear event barriers of what is our event and making sure that the space within that barrier works with the social distancing calculator.”
Hill said that the college’s ability to hold events in an online format, which it has been exercising throughout the year, gave the planners of the festival the flexibility to plan on a completely virtual festival that could be supplemented with more in-person opportunities.
According to Hill, previous Lamapalooza festivals drew around 1,600 people, which she said is about three-fourths of the campus community.
This year, turnout for Llamapalooza has been smaller, but there are still signs of participation.
“In between 200 students have been coming through the afternoon activities from 12 until 3, and then the first week of Llama, we had around 70 students come to the in-person event,” Hill said.
A little different for CCEMS, too
For CC’s student-run Emergency Medical Services (CCEMS), Llamapalooza has typically been a big night — but this year, their concerns have shifted.
Delaney Kenyon ‘23 told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project that in the past, Llamapalooza has historically been “one of the highest incident nights.”
But this year, Kenyon said that CCEMS has not dealt with any patients yet, though that didn’t mean she didn’t have other concerns.
“I know that some parties are happening off campus that aren’t registered and/or they aren’t going to call us if somebody needs help, because they’re worried about getting in trouble for having a party,” Kenyon said. “That’s one of my biggest concerns actually, is not the actual event of Llamapalooza but people celebrating outside of it, but then not calling Campus Safety or CCEMS for help for fear of disciplinary action.”
Making the best of it
For Hill, the biggest cause for concern about Llamapalooza is access to information about the festival for students.
“I think it’s just a challenge to get people to know about events, because people are so overwhelmed with their emails and they don’t necessarily read them,” Hill said. “We’re trying to do the best that we can given the situation that we’re in, and so it can be a little bit disheartening when people don’t want to turn out to that for whatever reason.”
Hill also said she has received feedback that some of the protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 might be too conservative and limiting, and thus have caused people to skip events.
However, she is optimistic the final weekend of the year will generate a larger turnout.
“I do think this next week is going to be a much bigger event that more people will turn out to — at least that’s my hope,” Hill said. “It’s been a good learning experience for us to figure out what people’s thresholds are.”
Henry Freedman ‘23, a Llamapalooza committee member, said that while it might not be perfect or ideal, he thought the event and all the work put into it has been “incredible.”
“I’m more sad that not a lot of people are attending, I think we have gone to great lengths to make sure that this is a safe and fun event this year,” Freedman told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “But especially with the craziness of the past year, this is a really incredible event.”
🔬 Streaming class instead of class in a stream
In a year where ‘hands-off’ learning was the safest option, ‘hands-on’ college classes were put in a tricky situation.
When Colorado College went fully remote for Blocks 7 and 8 last year, professors hastened to convert their classes to virtual formats, but few had to adjust as much as professors teaching courses with lab or field study components.
Jared Harris, a lecturer and lab instructor in the chemistry and biochemistry department, said that the department was scrambling to try and figure out what to do last March when in-person learning was suspended.
He said the department ended up settling on a pivot to fully online, “simulation-based activities.”
“We recorded a series of videos for each lab, and they tended to be five-ish minutes, and then there’d be like three to six videos per lab,” Harris told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “And then I worked to, in some cases, create datasets for them or harvest datasets from previous students that had done the experiment, and I would give those to the students and ask them to analyze it after watching the videos.”
According to Brian Linkhart, professor of organismal biology and ecology, the number of course sections being offered that have lab and field study components didn’t change — instead, what changed was how reliably professors could guarantee the courses would take place.
“There have been several field classes that have had to be canceled or rearranged,” Linkhart told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “In general, I think the number of sections hasn’t changed — it’s just been a matter of what have we been able to accomplish in those classes this year with respect to lab and field experiences, compared to what we normally would do.”
In many ways, Linkhart said lab and field study courses have been similarly challenging to organize during the pandemic. However, there are some special logistical considerations, like safe transportation or finding destinations that are large enough, involved in organizing field study courses that have been especially limiting.
Balancing field days
Roxaneh Khorsand, visiting professor in organismal biology and ecology, said she began teaching fully online last spring and only moved back to hybrid learning this block.
“What that looks like is we still meet on Zoom three times a week to discuss papers and to go over pre-recorded lectures so students can ask questions, but then we’re in the field twice a week,” Khorsand told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “We are limited as to where we go but students can still collect their own data in the field and get the hands-on experience.”
Khorsand said moving back to a hybrid format required some adjustments. She said these included using publicly-available data for research instead of having students collect their own, and setting up multiple cameras in her classroom so that students could see her, the whiteboard, and specimens underneath a microscope at the same time.
“So there were basically four things going on at the same time to try to give them that full exposure,” Khorsand told The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project. “But of course, it’s very different than in person.”
(To learn more about how Khorsand adapted her classes to a virtual format, read Molly Seaman ‘21’s article about Khorsand’s fully remote “Biology of Plants” class.)
Despite some of the drawbacks of remote lab courses, Khorsand said that if she had been given the option to teach in person last spring, she wouldn’t have wanted to for everyone’s safety.
So for Khorsand, an essential part of moving back to lab and field learning with in-person components during Block 8 was ensuring the safety of all those involved.
To ensure that, professors implemented certain protocols for lab and field study courses in addition to standard, college-wide safety protocols like mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing.
For example, Harris said that up until this block, face shields were required during in-person lab classes, and students had to remain in one lab pair throughout their class.
“Typically, I let students pick their lab partners and they kind of shuffle around every lab,” Harris said. “But this time, I’ve had them kind of paired from the start, and then they can’t really change, and that’s just to limit the amount of air that’s being shared, essentially, between different folks.”
Miro Kummel, associate professor in the environmental program, said it’s important for students to get to a location comfortably when traveling to classes in the field, which means finding COVID-safe transportation that does not require them to walk or bike to a location.
Kummel said that when possible, students drove their own cars or carpooled with him and with windows rolled down so students could make it to classes in the field.
Getting back to it
Despite having to consider safety more than usual, professors are generally happy to be back to teaching classes with some in-person components.
“When I’m back in the field with students, it is very clear that students’ morale goes up, their curiosity goes up, they find more meaning in the papers that we read,” Khorsand said.
Harris and Kummel both said that returning to in-person lab and field study courses was also good for the mental health and well-being of their students.
“I’ve also had a lot of students tell me how happy they are to have an in-person experience, just kind of on a personal and mental health level,” Harris said. “So that ability to connect in person has been really important for students and for myself.”
So with a mostly in-person Summer Session and fall semester on the horizon, professors are looking forward to increasing hands-on lab and field work.
However, that doesn’t mean they will forget what they learned during online instruction.
Harris, for example, said video instruction is one of the things he will likely continue to incorporate in his classes, because it can help students be “oriented” and “comfortable” with what they are looking at before they even arrive in class.
“I think pre-pandemic, there was a culture of ‘you gotta power through no matter what, because if you’ve missed it, then you’re kind of out of luck,’” Harris said. “So I think some of those things are good lessons to learn around being more accommodating for that.”
Khorsand said she also is going to provide video instruction to students going forward, because that was one of the things she learned that helped students if they cannot be present physically.
“I have learned immensely through COVID,” Khorsand said. “I think that it was very difficult, it was very jarring, it was very humbling. But it was a huge learning experience, and it continues to be a huge learning experience.”
About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project
The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is created by Colorado College student journalists Esteban Candelaria, Lorea Zabaleta, and Cameron Howell in partnership with The Catalyst, Colorado College’s student newspaper. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear every Monday.
The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community.