Slugs converge on the Santa Cruz business district for Downtown Day
Last Friday, so many UC Santa Cruz students converged on the downtown core that they kept passing each other.
“Oh, sorry, excuse me,” was a constant refrain as groups of beaming college students passed each other on the busy sidewalks of Pacific Avenue.
The big draw was the very first Downtown Day, the result of a partnership between UC Santa Cruz and the Downtown Association. Informal, interactive and fast-paced, the day included a scavenger hunt, street performances by student groups and a free screening of Jordan Peele’s horror film, We, at the Santa Cruz cinema. Peele’s film was shot at several locations in Santa Cruz, including the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
This spirited group of students – a mix of first year, third and fourth year transfers and returning – looked excited, grateful, and a little overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle and activity.
“It’s really fun, but it’s a bit chaotic – so many students! Said Jasmine Nemerovski (Oakes ’25, psychology). “I really appreciate all the local businesses and their hospitality. We just got a free taco. Her free snack came from Snap Taco on Pacific Avenue.
Kate Twist (Oakes ’25, upbringing) enjoyed the street scene but admitted she was “a little nervous” about seeing Jordan Peele’s horror film.
“I want to go see him, but I won’t go alone,” she vowed.
Downtown Day was also an opportunity for students including Scarlett Orantes (Oakes ’25, art & design: games and playable media) to discover what could be their future meeting places.
Orantes found herself drawn to Comicopolis, the Front Street comic book store near the Santa Cruz Bookstore.
“This area looks so different from what I’m used to,” said Orantes, who is from Los Angeles County.
On a sunny and breezy Friday, students ate burritos, scoured used record bins, admired crystals, examined swim shorts and marveled at bottles of “Shark Repellent” hot sauce at Pizza My Heart.
As a crowd of students lined up 50 meters deep at a kiosk to hand out maps and instructions for the scavenger hunt with a focus on local businesses, Andrew George, the food prepared for the market New Leaf community in downtown Santa Cruz, remained in awe.
“Look at all these people,” he said. “I’m really amazed. I moved to Santa Cruz at the height of the pandemic. It was mostly a ghost town. Now it’s so alive and full of people. I even saw a protest, a march. against climate change! ”
The scavenger hunt had cleverly written instructions designed to arouse students without confusing them too much.
One company provided the following clue: “I was founded on the ‘hottest day in Santa Cruz’ in 2010, and I’ve been helping locals cool off ever since. Unfortunately, I cost a little more than a penny!
This clue took students directly to the Penny Ice Creamery on Cedar Street, which is co-founded and co-owned by former student Kendra Baker (Crown ’01, language studies). And luckily, there was a helpful index on the other side of the clue card providing the answers to the seven scavenger hunt questions.
The festive day included performances by Latin dance troupe Sabrosura, as well as Cloud 9 A Cappella, the popular all-slug vocal group, who started their set with a creative mix of several popular tunes, including “Kansas City », A rhythm-and-blues song recorded by Fats Domino; “Roadhouse Blues” by The Doors; and “Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Downtown Day was so popular that a group of hosts ran out of their pile of 250 free gift bags by 3pm.
“This is our first year doing this, and I was a little nervous because it’s during the week, school is in session, and I was wondering how many people were going to participate,” said Haley Morrow ( Stevenson ’20, Cognitive Science), Communications Specialist for Government and Community Relations at UCSC “But it’s a great crowd.
“UC Santa Cruz students are vital to the downtown economy,” said Morrow, who planned the logistics for Downtown Day in conjunction with the Downtown Association of Santa Cruz.
“We wanted to make sure that students always feel welcome downtown,” Morrow continued. “Even though their home is on UCSC Hill, their home is here too.”