Spring is rolling into West Lafayette, and that means one thing. It’s time to kick off the Bug Bowl at Purdue’s Spring Fest!
An annual Purdue University tradition, this insect-centric event is part of the College of Agriculture’s annual Spring Fest (this year’s event will be on April 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) to showcase the lighter side of higher education through engaging in-person and virtual activities.
Entomology professor emeritus Tom Turpin got the Bug Bowl ball rolling back in 1990 to increase interest in insects by creating a cockroach race. Bugs bred in the entomology department competed in a small constructed stadium called “Roachhill Downs,” drawing a crowd of around 100 curious observers thanks to a radio mention by a local disc jockey. Department colleagues got into the act for the next year’s event, organizing the official “Bug Bowl.”
In the decades since, Spring Fest and the Bug Bowl have grown exponentially. Pre-pandemic, the free-to-attend family festival attracted as many as 30,000 attendees over a two-day weekend each April, making it one of the largest insect-themed festivals in the country.
Purdue’s Spring Fest takes over a good portion of the Purdue campus, centering mostly around the Agricultural Buildings and Memorial Hall with indoor/outdoor offerings that include a horticulture show, a plant sale, and a College of Veterinary Medicine open house where visitors can learn more about animal anatomy — and sometimes even watch actual surgeries.
The centerpiece of the festival, the Bug Bowl takes place in Smith Hall, featuring an insect petting zoo, a live beehive, a K-12 art contest, and interactive games. The cricket spitting contest — yes, really! — is always a highlight, but has been adapted to cricket flicking for 2022 in light of Covid-19 safety.