The day when thousands of students from all over migrate to the sandy shores of Isla Vista and prepare for “The Best Day(ge) of Their Lives!” has just passed. The Deltopia tradition has its roots years deep in Santa Barbarian history. Many mark this hallmark of UCSB heritage in their calendars and anxiously await the festivities. UCSB students are not the only ones who have Deltopia on the forefront of their minds as soon as Spring Quarter starts. This holiday, as many claim it to be, has extended far beyond towards a large demographic of students from other campuses as well. Students love a good party, but is Deltopia as good of a party as it is made out to be?
Last week, when visiting my hometown two hours outside of Santa Barbara, my mom and I stopped at our local credit union. After being summoned to meet the next accountant, I put my paperwork on the table and was then followed by a series of questions, one of them being about my status as a full-time student. I obviously said yes, and to this, the young accountant then asked where I go to school. I told him that I attend UCSB, and his eyes immediately lit up. In my mind, I then assumed he was some sort of alumni or former student, but to my surprise, that light in his eyes was not because he was an alumnus or because it’s a great school, but because of Deltopia. He gave me his spiel of recently graduating from UCI, and of course, brought up his experience of driving down PCH to hit up Deltopia less than 30 seconds after I told him where I go to school. I gave him something short of a smile because that was all I could muster.
Clearly, this crusty Californian celebration is one of the first things that comes to mind when UCSB is brought into the conversation. But I have to ask myself, why? My experience surely did not match this idealistic utopian festival.
Deltopia was born in 2004, being named originally Floatopia. Steve Chawkins describes the former affair as “several hundred people drinking just offshore on rubber rafts and inner tubes” which explains where the elaborate name, “Floatopia” stemmed from. It was really just a day to celebrate going to college on the beach and living the Barbie dream house lifestyle that sunny Isla Vista offers. Over time, Floatopia became Deltopia and developed into one huge street celebration along Del Playa. According to an article written for The Bottom Line in 2019, the switch from Floatopia to Deltopia “created a platform and atmosphere where people dress up.” The event is a festival that rings in the beginning of Spring Quarter’s season of sun, because Spring Break is just not enough!
Thousands flock to Del Playa in search of any house party they can squeeze into amongst the herd of people in bikinis and trunks. Sloshed and sulking, I joined last year as a freshman and found nothing but disappointment and a raging headache. I understand the appeal, but it is really just a glorified conglomeration of daygers. I could not understand what separates it from a regular Sunday Funday at UCSB. It is truly a holiday in Isla Vista, but I just believe it to be a fusion of its tradition that keeps it alive and the good ol’ college binge-drinking phenomenon.
Deltopia can be a great experience for those who dare entertain themselves with it, but it has had some really disastrous consequences. Behind all of the fun it promises, it is really just promoting over-consumption and binge-drinking culture. In an article by Jade Martinez-Pogue recapping last year’s Deltopia celebration, it is reported that Santa Barbara County’s Sheriff’s Spokeswoman Raquel Zick stated that “the increase in emergency medical calls were mostly for acute alcohol intoxication.” The toxic relationship between American college students and over-drinking is not anything new, but Deltopia provides a day where this behavior is “excusable” because it is once a year and as said before a holiday. Injury, chaos, and danger can ensue when a large group of college students collectively decide that it’s okay “just this one time” to drink themselves to the point of danger.
There is no denying that Deltopia is integral to UCSB’s reputation as a fun party school on the beach and to its history and culture, but one has to wonder if it is worth the consequences. Are we actually just glorifying a day of binge drinking and mediocre-at-best day parties?