A portion of this article was originally published in UTEP's Transformation blog
Minerpalooza, a combination street festival, concert, and pep rally, was first staged on August 27, 1994, as an event to welcome UTEP students back to school. Organized by the Alumni Association and the Union Programs Office (now Office of Student Life), the festival took place in the Union West parking lot (now Centennial Plaza) and featured performances by fourteen different rock, rap, jazz, folk, and alternative music groups, as well as dancers and comedians.
The name “Minerpalooza” was derived from the 1991 “Lollapalooza," a nationwide alternative music festival. Minerpalooza's roots can be traced to an invitation-only alumni picnic first organized in 1991. In 1992, the picnic was opened to students and included a pep rally to kick off the new football season. According to organizers, the picnic failed to attract sufficient interest, as only a few students who lived on campus attended.
In 1994, organizers reinvented the event by moving it off of the lawn, expanding the concert lineup, adding vendors, and changing the name to Minerpalooza. 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. About 1,000 people attended the first Minerpalooza in 1994 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. The first festival worked so well that at the second in 1995, vendors and groups lined up to participate.
“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.”
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 Centennial Plaza renovation work.
Prospector (Aug. 25, 1994; Aug. 24, 1995; Sep. 5, 1996)
Diana Natalicio, "Convocation Speech," 1995.
Spin (May 17, 2011)
"Picnic in the Park, 1991," UTEP Publications, MS 001, C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections, UTEP Library
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