Hosted annually to welcome SIUE students back to campus, the Root Beer Riot celebrated its 10th year this weekend with music, prizes and cornhole and pong tournaments.
The event is hosted each year by A Cross Between Campus Ministry. According to SIUE alumna and event coordinator Nicole Gill, of Wood River, Illinois, the purpose of the event is to allow students to have fun in a safe, alcohol-free environment.
“The whole idea [is] just really trying to provide an alternative to a typical college party,” Gill said. “You don’t have to go to this frat party and get drunk to have a fun time. There are other things that are really fun and to kind of start your college experience off right.”
Before coming to SIUE’s campus, the event was previously held at off-campus sites and had a different name, according to Gill.
“It used to be the Root Beer Kegger, but we couldn’t do ‘kegger’ on campus, even though it was root beer, so that’s why we changed the name,” Gill said.
The event takes aspects of a typical college party, such as beer pong and kegs, and turns them into nonalcoholic fun. However, Gill said organizers of the event have some concerns about these elements sending the wrong message.
“We used to do a lot more stuff that was taking the party stuff and just making it without alcohol, but we don’t want to too closely associate with that, either,” Gill said. “Like some people are getting the wrong idea about, like, ‘Oh, we’re practicing beer pong.’ People just like to play, and that’s why we started the tournament.”
In recent years, organizers have added more elements that are not related to alcohol to provide students who come to the event with more options, according to Gill.
“Then we were like, ‘We’d like something else that’s not alcohol-related,’ Gill said. “And that’s why we did the cornhole, and I think that the inflatables might’ve been when we started trying to get funds from SIUE. We thought, ‘Oh, that would be a really cool aspect to add another fun thing for people to do while they’re there.’”
Junior psychology and criminal justice major Sidney Jones, of Johnston City, Illinois, said she came to the event because of the atmosphere and the different elements it has to offer.
“I just really like the environment of the Root Beer Riot,” Jones said. “There’s games, there’s prizes, there’s food — what’s not to love?”
Junior robotics engineering major Jacqueline Corral, of Calumet City, Illinois, agreed with Jones and said the food especially keeps her coming back.
“This is my third time here, and it’s just really fun,” Corral said. “The root beer floats are delicious, and we’re broke college students — we all want free food. It’s the reason I go to any event on campus, really.”
According to Gill, the event has received steady attendance since relocating to SIUE ten years ago. She credits this, in part, to the event being held on the Stratton Quadrangle, a central location on campus.
“Having it here is really easy. People just, if they’re on campus, then they’re coming here [to the Quad], and more often than not they choose to stay and have a nice time, so that’s kind of cool,” Gill said. “Just to have it in such a central location, I think, makes the attendance stay pretty solid.”
In addition to providing students with a fun alternative option to the typical college party, Gill said the event also allows members of A Cross Between to meet individuals who are potentially interested in joining the group.
“For us, too, we’re going to get to meet some of these students and potentially, one, love up on them like Christ wants us to and, two, get to know them and see if they have any interest in a relationship with God or learning what that looks like,” Gill said. “And so, to me, that’s why I think it’s most important — it’s a way for us to meet the students that are here today.”
Although Gill said this is at the back of the volunteers’ minds as they host the event, she said it is not the primary aim of the event.
“We don’t do a lot of preaching of the gospel or anything,” Gill said. “Obviously, that’s not the main focus of the event, as far as a student that comes to the event is not going to be like, ‘Oh, this is a Bible thing.’ But it’s something that, as we get to know people, if we meet anybody and make any friends, we’re definitely going to want to bring that up in our personal relationship with them. And if they’re not interested, that’s okay, too. We still made a friend.”
To learn more about upcoming events at SIUE, view the Campus Calendar of Events at www.siue.edu/events/.