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UCLA First Thursdays unites community for Spooktacular evening block party

October’s First Thursdays block party hosted a variety of options for student entertainment, including a DJ and stilt walkers. (Eva Danesh/Daily Bruin)

By Eva Danesh

Oct. 11, 2022 10:48 p.m.

Thousands of Bruins and Westwood community members gathered on Broxton Avenue on Thursday for the academic year’s first First Thursdays block party, filling Westwood Village with long lines, bright lights and spooky attractions.

Nearly 4,000 students joined the Westwood Village Spooktacular, which featured a DJ, magician, photo stations, food trucks and student pumpkin art in the spirit of Halloween.

Launched in March, First Thursdays is jointly hosted by UCLA and the Westwood Village Improvement Association in an effort to strengthen the relationship between Bruins and the Westwood community. The monthly event began at noon with the Westwood Village Farmers’ Market pop-up and extended to the evening block party.

[Related: UCLA First Thursdays brings Westwood together for jazz concert, ‘Soul’ screening]

Michael Russell, executive director of the WVIA, said there is great value in including Westwood neighbors in these events. Russell added that business owners have benefited from the extra traffic generated by these monthly events, and some have chosen to extend their hours to welcome event attendees.

“I’d love to see this and more of this,” Russell said. “It’s important for the village. It’s important for UCLA, and it’s important for us as people to come out and have something fun to do and get together.”

(Eva Danesh/Daily Bruin)
The latest First Thursdays event was Halloween themed and included spooky decorations and a pumpkin carving competition. (Eva Danesh/Daily Bruin)

During the Westwood Village Farmers’ Market, the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center educated attendees on the importance of donating blood.

“People get excited for Halloween, and there’s an energy,” said Tom King, the campus blood donor recruiter for UCLA Health. “Instead of putting fake blood on your face, come give real blood to us.”

King said he appreciates the opportunity to share the importance of donating blood and platelets with Westwood. The blood center is recovering from a significant blood shortage and hopes to establish regular donors throughout the year, he said.

“We’ve had so many just beautifully spirited people coming in, and they’re so excited to donate,” King added.

(Eva Danesh/Daily Bruin)
Students stand in front of a display of carved pumpkins. This month’s First Thursdays event invited student artists to compete in a pumpkin carving art contest. (Eva Danesh/Daily Bruin)

Along with costumed stilt walkers and Halloween decor featured at the evening’s block party, UCLA art students displayed original pumpkin art.

Mia Masturzo, a first-year art student whose pumpkin was on display, said she had never carved a pumpkin for a competition but was excited to use her ceramics tools and skills in her dorm room. She said she was inspired by UCLA to carve a bear on the surface of her pumpkin.

“Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I just loved all of it,” Masturzo said. “Seeing people go to my pumpkin and taking photos of it, … it was really fun.”

Fourth-year fine arts student Stephanie Ko, who received the third-place award for her pumpkin carving, said this is the first time her work has been publicly displayed to UCLA and that she is proud to be part of a university that values community and inclusion of its artists. She added that the nature of pumpkins inspired her design.

“Because pumpkins are hollow, they can make (a) nice shelter – like a little home, which is what kind of kickstarted my idea to have little ghosts occupying a haunted pumpkin,” Ko said.

Nathalie Abrego, a second-year chemistry student, said she enjoyed the detailed and interactive Halloween theme. She added that she has also attended past First Thursdays events and appreciates how the event series highlights the Bruin community.

“It makes me happy because it just shows that we’re very tied together,” Abrego said. “We have a good community, and we can all just hang out and have fun.”

Contributing reports from Shaanth Kodialam, features and student life editor.

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