The Grand Valley State University’s Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA)/Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) club partnered with Whale Radio and the College Democrats club to host GVSU’s third Queer Rave event on Feb. 10.
The YDSA/SDS aimed for the Queer Rave to be an event where students could connect with other individuals in the LGBTQ community through music and dancing. The event has seen an increase in participation which the organizers hope will carry on into the future as the Queer Rave gains a presence at GVSU.
The Queer Rave was an event that Anthony Erlandson, a GVSU junior and the Queer Rave Committee leader, had dreamed of since their high school days. (should we say- that he was a founding member of).
“I got dragged to a YDSA/SDS meeting back in late March (2023) by my friend,” Erlandson said. “They (the club) were talking about potential things to do because there was a transphobic speaker coming to campus through the Libertarian club. They were trying to figure out a protest. I was like, instead of doing a protest where we can just be angry and stuff, let’s have a rave.”
YDSA/SDS hosted the first GVSU Queer Rave in April 2023 on a Tuesday night. The club transformed the Promotions Office in Kirkhof Center with $10 Amazon disco lights, Erlandson’s own DJ kit and a borrowed PA sound system. While the event was small, it was a major stepping stone for what soon would grow to be a much bigger event.
Claire Grob, a senior and member of the YDSA/SDS club, was one of the students in attendance at the first rave.
“I went mainly because my club was putting it on. It was so small, probably less than 30 people. It was still really fun (and) I really liked the music. Electronic and fast,” Grob said.
In August 2023, the second Queer Rave was hosted by the YDSA/SDS, led by Erlandson. Unfortunately, the club had missed the event funding deadline unknowingly. The group pulled together $70 to fund the event and got only one new lighting device, ultimately still holding the event.
Erlandson said hosting the Queer Rave in August allowed first-year students to find their community at GVSU.
“If you’re a queer freshman on campus, you don’t know a lot of other queer people, so we purposely planned it for Welcome Week so queer people could find each other on campus,” said Erlandson. “We had probably 300 people show up to that one.”
After the unexpected success of the second rave, it was a no-brainer for Erlandson and the rest of the team to ramp up preparations, planning and promotion for the next one. Grob joined the committee and worked to connect the organization to funding. Another member of the YDSA/SDS club created a set of promotional graphics to spread across campus.
During one club meeting, a member of the GVSU Student Senate, who helps t0 allocate the Student Life Fund which supports student organizations, showed up and expressed interest in helping them get funding for the rave.
“We didn’t know the scope of it (the funding), so we found these $100 Amazon lights and got two of them, and thought it was crazy and the most expensive thing we’re doing. We were gonna get a dance floor too, so it wouldn’t just be on carpet. We submitted it and said ‘this is our $500 budget,’” said Erlandson. “We were afraid we were going to get turned away because it was too expensive. They did tell us to go away– and to come back asking for way more shit.”
With new resources and support from Student Senate, the organization was able to purchase catering and brand-new, concert-style lighting– elements the Queer Rave was unable to get before.
“The first two raves were a little bit thrown together, very much balling on a budget, but this was where we actually got support from GV to bring it to its full potential, and I’m so excited about it,” said Erlandson.
Grob said seeing how hard work and coordination come to fruition in the final event is worth it.
“It’s great to have the resources to do something like this: to have the funds for the food, for the lighting. It just makes me realize how much goes into planning an event,” said Grob.
While the GVSU Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center holds lots of educational and bond-building events for queer students on campus, the YSDA/SDS expressed that the Queer Rave is aimed to be an event by students, for students. Grob said the mission of the Queer Rave is to create a comfortable and enjoyable environment.
“The LGBTQ center is a great space, they do a lot of events that are really important. They’re a different vibe, more so conversations and small groups of people,” said Grob. “Queer Rave is a good space to just have fun and have an excuse to listen to some great music and dance and meet other queer people and have a community. That can be kind of refreshing.”
Similarly, Erlandson said having a Queer Rave was a unique experience compared to other LGBTQ-geared events.
“I love the LGBT center, but it was nice to have a queer event where it wasn’t just them putting it on. It was fully student-run,” said Erlandson. “A lot of the queer events are very lowkey. It’s good to have lowkey events, but there was definitely a gap in the market for something that was just a full-out, queer party on campus. From the queer community at GV, we’ve had so much support with that, and have had a very warm reception.”
After the growing interest and success of the past three raves, Erlandson and the rest of the YDSA Queer Rave Committee look forward to continuing to put on the event every semester they can.