Community, University Aim to Unite at WestFest


Kayra Clouden/The Charger Bulletin

Chazz Mair, Contributing Writer

On September 2, the West Haven community and the University of New Haven came together for the third annual WestFest. Kicked off by residents and students throwing packets of powered paint at each other to the sound of their own laughter, the two communities looked at what the other had to offer.

Connor Vargo, chair of the University’s Mayor’s Advisory Committee, said that the event was an idea put forth by Mayor Edward O’Brien and the University of New Haven’s Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Political Science, Chris Haynes.

“West Haven was West Haven and the University was the University,” Mayor O’Brien said at the event.

The Mayor’s Advisory Committee lets students work with local government to get involved and unite the West Haven and University communities. Jaimy Rippe handled the gathering a bulk of the businesses present at the event, having been added to the Committee’s roster after studying abroad with Professor Haynes.

Booths representing local businesses and organizations from the local area and the University were set up across the West Haven Green. New Haven Tea was about twenty feet from the Marine Biology club and visitors for the events could visit each table to learn about them. The Society of Women Engineers brought virtual reality kits to entertain and the West Haven Library put its educational and recreational programs on display. Music was provided by WNHU 88.7 FM and radio personality Sonja Denyse was the master of ceremonies.

The event wasn’t just a walk through the various organizations of the school and town; entertainment was provided to keep people around. Local names like Ian Biggs provided a short break from the radio station’s playlist and the Top Hat Dance academy’s young dancers showed the community a routine that took classical tunes and mixed them with modern hits.

The event itself, placed at the start of the University’s fall semester, is seen as a welcome to students who are new to the West Haven area. Taking place at the end of the school’s “Welcome Week” is many Freshmen’s first introduction to what’s available to them once they step off of school grounds.

“Great beaches, great food and great people,” Vargo said about the West Haven area, while Rippe was quick to praise the diversity of the community and how willing the city is to reach out to refugees. Shared among everyone was a unifying identity and goal of having fun.

“Out of all of the events the city puts on, WestFest is the most fun.” Sonja Denyse said.