Harrisfest returns tomorrow

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On March 29, the Townsend Harris community is bringing back Harrisfest, a talent show that provides students with an opportunity to showcase their talents in an environment that is larger than the classroom but with less pressure than a formal talent show.

The most recent Harrisfest, which was hosted in 2012, was run by classical language teacher George Hagerty. “Harrisfest really started as a battle of the bands,” he said. “It was mostly metal bands and hard rock. At some point along the way, it changed to Harrisfest, and I suppose the idea behind that was to encourage more variety of musical acts.” However, over the past few years, it has been hard to find students who are willing to plan this event.  “Harrisfest doesn’t just happen,” Mr. Haggerty added. “A student has to produce it and decide that he or she wants to spend the time organizing it, promoting it, and executing the plan. In some years, there were many musicians at THHS who wanted a venue to perform, and we had a producer who was willing to produce the show. If you don’t have that, then you don’t have Harrisfest.”

Last year, efforts to bring Harrisfest back were unsuccessful. “It just didn’t work out with the calendar,” Dr. Mariko Sato said. This year, she is working alongside COSA Sarah Oberlander and a student organizing committee to ensure that the event is a success.

Not only will Harrisfest be a chance for students to perform, but it will also be a chance for them to give back to the community. Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victim Relief Fund to help the community and families who were affected by the tragedy.

“By coming, students are contributing to the fundraiser and they will see their peers performing,” Dr. Sato said. “I’ve been thinking about bringing it back for a few years and it’s finally happening this year. We have a nice collection of people doing solo music, group performances, dances, and comedy.”

Ms. Oberlander recalls that Harrisfest has always been “a nice tradition to showcase all the talents that Townsend Harris has, because people have so many unique interests here that we don’t get to know about or see in class, and there’s not necessarily a club for it. [Harrisfest] is a place where students could feel safe and able to showcase their talents, even if they’re newcomers. Hopefully this year, we will revive Harrisfest and re-establish this tradition.”

Sophomore Annlin Su has been working with the advisors and the SU board to organize Harrisfest. “As the SU board, we support [Dr. Sato] and hope to revive this fun tradition as well,” she said.

Sophomore Katrina Dydzuhn, who is also a part of the organizing committee, adds, “There is no winner. It’s not meant to be a competition, like SING. It’s meant to showcase the [students’] abilities.”

Aside from the event’s organizers, other students within the Townsend Harris community have expressed interest in the event.

Freshman Katie Sie said, “I wanted to perform at Harrisfest since I’m passionate about filmmaking, but other school performances like SING and FON did not really allow me to display a film. Harrisfest is the opportunity for me to show off my passion and work on something that is not academic-based.” She continued on to say, “Other students should take advantage of Harrisfest to be as creative as they want to be. Since most students are stressed about school and find themselves trying to balance school work and extracurricular activities, Harrisfest is an easy way for them to be creative.”

Sophomore Andy Hoo added, “I wanted to perform at Harrifest because I wanted to manage and organize my own group and showcase my friends and their talents. It’s a talent show, but I just wanted to have fun. If you ever had an idea that you wanted to do and show someone but couldn’t, Harrisfest is the perfect opportunity to do so.”

Being that Harrisfest will be held on the day before Spring break, Ms. Oberlander feels that this is even more of an incentive for students to come watch. “What better way is there to spend a Thursday afternoon where you don’t have do your homework or study other than supporting your peers?” she said. “They’re on stage and taking a risk, so it would make them feel well-supported if everyone came out. This is like American Idol, but in our school, with people you know.”

Looking to the future, Dr. Sato hopes that Harrisfest will remain a successful, student-run tradition at Townsend Harris. “You have to start somewhere,” she said. “Even if it’s not perfect this year, people will get an idea and come up with ideas to improve the event going into the future. Hopefully, it will be completely student-run by next year. That’s my goal.”