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Upside Down Fest brings students together with workshops and live music

Pictured is third-year communication student Ben Bergen leading the poetry workshop. The workshop was one of many held throughout the fest where attendees had the opportunity to learn a new skill. (Jeremy Chen/Assistant Photo editor)

By Sharla Steinman

May 31, 2023 11:53 p.m.

Around 300 people gathered Thursday and Friday on Le Conte Avenue for Upside Down Fest, a series of workshops and activities hosted by the local coffee shop Upside Down.

The shop, located on the first floor of the Jews for Jesus office space, held the event to celebrate the end of the academic year and the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which is celebrated by Jewish people as the time when God gave them the Torah. The celebration featured a broad range of activities, such as pottery and challah braiding, as well as live entertainment and food trucks. A pop-up boutique sold donated items from the community, with all profits – which in combination with ticket sales added up to around $3,000 – going to Bruin Shelter, an undergraduate student-led organization that helps students experiencing homelessness find housing.

Kyle Young, Upside Down’s program manager, said that since the shop’s opening in 2019, Upside Down has sought to create a space where students can relax, work and have a good time. According to the Upside Down website, it is operated by Jews for Jesus, a nonprofit organization that supports exploring Jewish life with faith in Jesus.

Some students said they enjoyed the event because the workshops allowed them to learn a new skill.

Magge Wang, a second-year computational and systems biology student, said her favorite part of the event was a mocktail mixology workshop where she learned how to make simple syrup and a variety of drinks.

Stephanie Perez, a postbaccalaureate student at UCLA Extension and lab assistant at UCLA Health, said she enjoyed the event because it was nice to get away from work and school and do hands-on activities.

“It’s nice to be able to see the fruits of your labor and have something fun to take home,” Perez said.

Isaac Brickner, director of Upside Down and Los Angeles branch leader of Jews for Jesus, said the no-bake cheesecake workshop brought attendees of different backgrounds together. Brickner added that eating cheesecake on Shavuot is in remembrance of the religious importance of dairy during the holiday.

“I actually saw people teaming up to make cheesecakes together because we had all these stand mixers and they had to share,” Brickner said. “I asked (an attendee), ‘Oh, how do you guys know each other?’ ‘We don’t, we just met!’ … That made my day.”

Thursday’s events ended with a battle of the bands, in which three local bands – Unbothered, Geanies and Jaded – competed for a $400 prize and the chance to record a song in the Upside Down music studio.

Audience members voted on their favorite band, with Unbothered coming out as the final winner.

On Friday, the night concluded with a Shabbat concert and closing art reception, celebrating the Jewish weekly day of rest.

Ultimately, Young said he was glad to see students relax and have fun with each other.

“I think my favorite part of the day today was just realizing that community happened,” Young said. “It was so fun to just see students interacting with each other, bringing their friends, having that place to belong and exist.”

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Sharla Steinman | City and Crime Editor
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
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