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Features May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2
   

Celebrating Our Sun God
by Raymond Hardie

 
     

“I will alight there,” said the Sun God, pointing one of its psychedelic wings toward the fledgling campus on the mesa. Well, not quite, but French-born sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002) did select the roosting spot for her 14-foot-high, fiberglass statue while flying over UCSD in a helicopter. “I was scared to death,” she admitted after the flight.

Constructed in France, the Sun God was shipped over to campus for installation in 1983. And every year since, it has been the star of its very own festival.

Henry Chu, ’83, an Associated Students (AS) officer came up with the idea for a big bash after visiting UCLA’s spring festival. But that first effort was unseasonably washed out.

The sun did shine on the 1984 re-debut and the festival has since become a UCSD tradition. According to Susan Lewis, ’85, the 1984 festival director, $9,000 was spent on 35 reusable booths, where they sold food and offered 18 carnival games ranging from “Name That Tune” to the AS Corruption Booth, with two council members available to “accept bribes” for mock unethical activities.

The venue has moved a number of times, from the original Student Center hump to the Sun God Lawn (before the Faculty Club was built) to Mile High Field where RIMAC is now, to the Price Center plaza, to Warren Mall. Now it spreads its wings from Sun God Lawn across Library Walk, Price Center and RIMAC.

In 1985, an evening concert featuring Los Lobos was added, and since then such artists as The Call, The Untouchables, No Doubt, Social Distortion, Blues Traveler, They Might Be Giants and Switchfoot have played.

Throughout the years, the Sun God has tolerated a number of superficial costume malfunctions, as generations of art department students expressed their creativity with the addition of sunglasses, a cap and gown, an ID card and even a large working phallus.

This year’s 24th festival included game booths with sumo wrestling, jousting and giant slides, plus performances throughout the day by a capella groups, juggling acts, martial arts teams and cheerleaders. And the concert at RIMAC field featured My Chemical Romance, Cypress Hill and Bedouin Soudclash among others.

As part of a new tradition, UCSD’s very own version of NASCAR revved up for the third year.

The Triton Junkyard Derby is a three-day event based on the The Learning Channel’s popular “Junkyard Wars.” For photos of this year’s winners, losers, cruisers and crashers, go to: http://alumni .ucsd.edu/derby.

Got a favorite Sun God memory? Contact us at alumni@ucsd.edu and share.

 

RELATED LINKS

Niki de Saint Phalle

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Sun God Decorating Contest

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Sun God Restoration Project

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Sun God Posters

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Stuart Collection

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"Got a favorite Sun God memory?

Contact us at alumni@ucsd.edu

and share."