The University takes Tom Tom

Students play a key role in Charlottesville’s Tom Tom Founders Festival


Last weekend’s Tom Tom Founders Festival featured 170 hours of free arts and musical events hosted in celebration of the Charlottesville community.

More than 170 hours of free arts and musical events took over Charlottesville last weekend as part of the Tom Tom Founders Festival — a spectacle held to celebrate the Charlottesville community that marks a culmination of efforts of many University students who have spent the past few months behind the scenes to make the event a success.

Student Outreach Coordinator Sana Khawaja, a fourth-year College student, along with Arts Coordinator Steph Katsias and Innovation coordinator Daniel Willson, both second-year College students, offered nothing but praise for the festival.

“Tom Tom is about Charlottesville for Charlottesville,” Willson said. “It’s about how a world class University can come together with the community. I think people maybe come out for the concerts, but they’ll stop by to see what else there is to see. … There’s something for everyone.”

This union of Charlottesville and the University is key to the success of Tom Tom.

“Slowly Tom Tom is gaining its presence on Grounds,” Khwaja said. “People recognize the buffalo [Tom Tom logo] — they want to know what it is, which is something we have never really had before. Our presence on Grounds has really seemed to grow by the semester, which is great.”

Helping to organize the event was an important learning experience for the students involved, they said.

“I’ve also learned a lot about how a city works, how local government works with nonprofits and how they work with businesses,” Willson said. “I find that really fascinating to see how the moving pieces work together throughout the year and how they have to come together for an event like this.”

Khawaja said though the time and effort involved in an off-Grounds activity can be intimidating, the stress pales in comparison to the rewards.

“It can be tricky to balance with school, but Tom Tom has become a passion in many of the students’ lives, and keeping up with things becomes less of something that you have to do and becomes something that you truly want,” Khawaja said.

The successful conclusion of the festival marks the beginning of another year of preparation for these student coordinators, and a renewed opportunity to increase student involvement in the event — which has seen a huge growth in the past three years to become a full-fledged festival.

“[Tom Tom] is important because it widens [a student’s] experience at U.Va. and makes it less about this square-mile radius of Grounds and pushes it out toward the Charlottesville community,” Katsias said. “To know that you’re a part of something that will continue to thrive and be such an important part of this community [is] a really special opportunity, and I think you would be really mistaken to miss that opportunity.”

Published April 13, 2014 in Life

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