Parrish Parlor Parties Rise in Popularity

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Last year, in an effort to provide a social scene for students that didn’t involve alcohol, the Student Life team in the Dean’s Office created the Parrish Parlor Parties.

After being around for little over a full semester, however, these Parlor Parties have already become a part in Swarthmore’s social scene that both deans and students hope stays around.

“I’m really excited about this concept,” said Associate Dean for Student Life Myrt Westphal. “It seems to be filling a hole we had in the social scene.”

The parties, which offer unique themes and activities for people who attend, are held in the parlors of Parrish Hall on Thursday and Saturday nights from 9 to 12 p.m. All the parties are spearheaded by two students known as “baristas,” who are responsible for creating a theme, thinking up activities, setting up for the party and cleaning up afterwards.

“The idea is for [the students] to be more self-sufficient,” said Associate Director of Student Life Kelly Wilcox. “It’s great because I’ve exhausted my creativity.”

Some of the recent themes have been World Series, “Back-to-the-90s,” and karaoke. This Thursday there will be a costume party for Halloween. Wilcox said that the parties cost about 200 to 250 dollars a week and the baristas are paid the same as a party associate, which is the highest pay rate.

Sally Chang ’11 said that hosting a cookie and cake decorating Parlor Party before fall break this year was “actually really fun,” with a strong turnout of 150 people.

“It’s nice to go some place for half an hour and get some sugar and hang out with your friends,” she said.

Fanny Zhao ’12, who attended Chang’s party, agreed.

“[It’s good] because I’m a freshman, so going with friends and playing board games with other people opens doors,” she said. “For me it’s a good way of going to a ‘party.’”

Usually, Chang said, 100 to 200 people show up. Chang is acting as a barista this Thursday for the Halloween party and plans on continuing to host parties in the future.

Westphal said that though at first the Parlor Parties’ baristas were “a small group” of students, this year the school has done some advertising and gotten new ones. “Some groups [on campus] have intended on using [parties] as publicity,” she added.

Though “there have been a couple of times where we haven’t had two baristas to sign up,” Westphal said, she doubts it’s due to a lack of interest.

“I think people are busy,” said Westphal. “It’s also the fact that it’s pretty new.”

Plus, Westphal said that several upcoming dates for the Parlor Parties are already booked. Wilcox added that students have been coming in for new ideas weeks in advance.

“It’s doing what we wanted because it’s part of the social scene,” said Westphal. “We intend on it being a permanent fixture.”

The only problem with that, however, is that the alumnus’s donation will be finished by the end of this year, Wilcox and Westphal both said.

Wilcox said there are three options to continue the parties: write to the alumnus who earlier donated to ask for more money, ask the Parents Council for money, or incorporate the cost of the Parlor Parties into to the school’s operating budget.

Even if the costs for the parties were cut, Chang said, “[a Parlor Party] still sends a good message” to students.

And would Zhao go to another party in the future? “Definitely,” she said.

With the parties’ success and positive message, Wilcox said that the school will work to make sure they still exist next year.

“They’ll continue,” she said. “We’ll find a way of making them happen.”

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