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'Community is unparalleled': Students move into K-Ville for first tenting season since before pandemic

<p>Students set up their tents Jan. 23 for the first tenting season since before the pandemic.</p>

Students set up their tents Jan. 23 for the first tenting season since before the pandemic.

Droves of Duke fans shuffle to Cameron Indoor Stadium on a recent Tuesday night to watch their Blue Devils take on Clemson. 

Everything is nearly identical to all the other home games from this season. Line monitors’ bull horns ring, students show off their homemade signs to friends and the pregame line gradually grows as everyone scurries toward the walkway alongside the Wilson Recreation Center. 

But something gives Krzyzewskiville a different look. Probably the 200+ tents filling up every square foot of grass. 

Normally students hang out on the grassy quads prior to the games doing everything from painting faces to making hype videos on the Duke University Students’ Instagram page. But there wasn’t much space to do that starting Jan. 23, when the annual tradition of tenting returned after the pandemic forced its cancelation in the 2020-21 season

Students were ready for it to be back. 

“Tenting is just very special. You’ll meet so many new people. The community is unparalleled,” said senior Nitin Subramanian, who also tented his freshman and sophomore years. “Last night, I hung out with 10 people I’ve never met before at Duke.”

The return of Krzyzewskiville

It did not always look like tenting would get to make its return during the 2021-22 season. Over Duke’s winter break Dec. 23, the University canceled the normal Black tenting period (the longest one) due to concerns over the Omicron variant, with plans for students to set up camp for Blue tenting (the shorter phase with less required people in tents) starting Jan. 16. Weeks later, the University pushed back the tenting start date again as it decided to also hold classes online until Jan. 18. After much anticipation, the University gave tenting the go-ahead Jan. 13, with the plan for the infamous entry test to be Jan. 19 and Blue tenting to begin Jan. 23

“I was pretty upset when we got the first email about Black tenting being canceled and then when it got pushed back again that also wasn’t great,” junior Elizabeth Wise said. “We were worried that it wasn’t gonna happen or something but I was like: ‘Stop saying that, we need to make it happen, don’t jinx it.’”

Wise’s group and 169 others had their wish granted. Roughly one-third of the undergraduate student body huddled in Cameron Indoor Stadium to take the test, and the 70 top scores emerged victorious—with real estate in Krzyzewskiville as their reward. 

Additionally, the setup process was different this year to adjust for the Omicron surge. Instead of each group having one large tent with all the members sleeping in it, there is a rule of two people per tent. That makes living arrangements a little difficult with the six-person nightly requirement in Krzyzewskiville during Blue tenting, but Duke Athletics provided two additional tents to each group.

“I think it’s definitely more of a hassle just because it’s more setup, more tarps, more stakes you got to put down but I think it’s definitely more comfortable in terms of the living situation,” Subramanian said. 

After a full day of hammering stakes, laying out pallets and propping up tents, Krzyzewskiville was back to its former glory by nightfall of Jan. 23.

'This is actually my school'

For the hundreds of students braving the cold until the March 5 North Carolina game, it’s all worth it, especially after a year of being “Cameron-deprived” as senior Sunrita Gupta called it. 

Gupta values the skills that she’s learned from tenting. Negotiating pallet prices with local businesses, setting up a tent and collaborating with teammates are all things she’s picked up.

“This has taught me a lot more than a lot of other extracurriculars I’ve been in,” Gupta said. “I think that this is a super worthwhile experience as long as you’re good about the time management and are willing to sacrifice some other things for it.”

For others, tenting was just written in their future since birth.

“There’s photos of me wearing Duke gear at like three months old so it was always gonna happen,” sophomore Thomsen Hoops said. “I’ve loved Duke basketball since I was a little kid.”

Hoops’ tenting teammate, Skylar Brogan, knew she wanted to tent after she watched a documentary on the Cameron Crazies and the rivalry while she was applying to colleges. She knew she had to be one of the fans in the stands painted blue.

“When I was interviewing [during the college application process], I was like: ‘I want to go to Duke because I want to paint myself blue.’”

Regardless of what people’s biggest takeaway from tenting is, many students circled back to the feeling of community that tenting in Krzyzewskiville creates. 

Wise is the proud team captain of “Keels Kave” and she’s enjoyed being in a tent with her friends from various social groups. Gupta is a part-time student this semester and being in “K-Watch” (like the 2017 remake of Baywatch) has kept her connected to campus. 

“It’s so cool to walk around campus, see the players around, actually be friends with some of them and be like: ‘Oh this is actually my school,’” freshman Amy Fulton said. “I feel such a sense of commitment to the team now, I gotta be there. I gotta support my boys.”

As much time and effort as tenting in Krzyzewskiville takes, the students know how to have fun while doing it. 

Fulton and her group hung inflatable fish, crabs and strings of fish lights across their tent’s entryway to go along with its “Margaritaville” name. Wise and her friend adopted Mardell the stuffed dinosaur, a name the two of them made up because Wise’s favorite player is Mark Williams and her friend’s favorite is Wendell Moore Jr. 

Looking across Krzyzewskiville, a lot of the students in the tents weren’t even on campus the last time tenting took place. This season is different than any other with  the raised stakes that Coach K’s last year puts on it. Only four of the players on this team’s roster had even known what it was like to play in a packed Cameron Indoor Stadium before this year. 

But that defining characteristic of the students who pack Cameron Indoor Stadium is the same as it always was.

“We’re still crazy,” Wise said. 

Editor's note: This article is one of many in The Chronicle and The Daily Tar Heel's annual rivalry edition. Find the rest here.


Jake C. Piazza

Jake Piazza is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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