Minerpalooza to be the Biggest for UTEP Centennial

Editor’s note: The following is part of a weekly series commemorating the University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Celebration in 2014.

In honor of The University of Texas at El Paso’s Centennial Celebration, this year’s Minerpalooza will be “The Party of the Century.”20140816__EPT-L-UTEPColumn-0817~p1_GALLERY

Organizers plan to make it the largest Minerpalooza since it began in 1993.

In the early 1990s, administrators wanted to start new UTEP traditions. Gary Edens, vice president for the Division of Student Affairs at UTEP, played a vital role in the design and implementation of Minerpalooza and has attended every year.

“We were looking at ways to connect students and alumni,” Edens said. “We wanted an event that welcomed back students in the fall because the biggest event was Homecoming.”

During this time, the UTEP Alumni Association held “Pick Nick on the Lawn” at Leech Groove on campus. Student Affairs and the Alumni Association joined forces to create one event to bring together students, alumni and the community.

The concept was to have a street festival feel with music and booths comprised of student organizations. After deciding on a concept, organizers looked to find a name.

“Lollapalooza was huge during that time and it was the first large-scale concert and it was hip,” Edens continued. “So I said, ‘Let’s call it UTEPalooza or Minerpalooza’ and that was the big debate. We finally settled on Minerpalooza and we named it that because we wanted to attract students and we knew we would have music and multiple bands.”

The first Minerpalooza had about 20 student organizational booths with games and two stages. One local band played on one stage while the other band set up on the other stage. The festivities were held in the heart of campus at Memorial Triangle, an area now called Centennial Plaza.

“I remember getting here (to the UTEP campus for the very first Minerpalooza), setting up our organizational booth and all of a sudden here comes the marching band walking down the street playing,” said Jaime Mendez, program director of Student Support Services. “There is a level of excitement; it’s like the great kickoff to the school year.”

About 1,000 people attended the first Minerpalooza in 1993 and the event has grown bigger each year. Organizers have found a recipe to keep the tradition alive. Every year, the event is held the Friday before the first home football game.

“People wanted to change the name five years in, and a lot of us said ‘No, we have to keep the name, because if you change it every five years, then it’s not going to be a tradition anymore,'” Edens said.

The event caters to many audiences. Families with children enjoy the street festival feel with a pep rally, food vendors and game booths in the early hours. In the later hours, students enjoy a dance party with live music.

In 2013, Minerpalooza relocated to the P-9 parking lot next to the Larry K. Durham Center due to the Campus Transformation project.

This year organizers paired with outside sponsors to create the largest Minerpalooza in history. Several departments met year-round to plan and organize the community event scheduled for Sept. 5.

“It’s the Centennial year, on top of the fact that it’s the day before the first football game which is against Texas Tech this year, so you can’t get much bigger than that,” Edens said.

All entertainment for this year’s Minerpalooza will have a UTEP connection. There will be a big name disc jockey, a fireworks display along with other activities.

Mendez predicts Minerpalooza will only continue to grow.

“I always envisioned this festival to be so big and I can just imagine what it is going to be like 25 years from now,” he said. “It will be triple the size of what it is now.”

Minerpalooza will take place from 6 p.m. to midnight Sept. 5 at the P-9 parking lot off of Glory Road. For more information about Minerpalooza, visit minerpalooza.com.

Jessica Molinar Muñoz works in UTEP’s Centennial Celebration office.