Onion Fest Brings Frisbee Culture to Walla Walla

Cole Anderson

Last weekend, the men’s and women’s Sweets teams hosted the annual Onion Fest. For those of you who are unaware of exactly what O-Fest is, imagine a motley crew of Frisbee players dressed up in ridiculous outfits trying to eat onions whole, all while competing in Ultimate Frisbee.

Jack Hardiman '13 during this  weekend's Onion Fest.  Photos by Halley McCormick.
Jack Hardiman ’13 during this weekend’s Onion Fest. Photos by Halley McCormick.

Though this event is extremely goofy, it takes a surprising amount of behind-the-scenes planning and hours of coordinating to produce a tournament laden with tradition, from silly cheers to wacky uniforms.

“This event is one of the biggest fundraisers for both teams so it’s really important to us,” said Julia Bladin, a sophomore on the Lady Sweets.

Being a club team, funding is tough to come by, so events like these contribute significantly to needed funds, especially for travel. However, the common theme for the players was not money, but rather bolstering the sense of Ultimate community.

“O-Fest allows for all of us to see friends from the coast––players who we play against, but otherwise rarely get to see throughout the year,” said Bladin.


Onion Fest is a unique event, but one thing that contributes to this is the unique nature of the sport. On the field, competition is everything, but before and after, competitors can be the best of friends. Most collegiate teams are hosted by off-campus houses and sleep on floors or couches. Even non-Frisbee households give up space to accommodate the teams coming into town. On Saturday night, after a day of competition, the teams come together and mingle around a bonfire and at a dance party put on by the Sweets.

“The Oregon team has some of the nicest people we’ve met. They’re all great dudes on and off the field,” said junior Nathan Sany regarding the University of Oregon men’s team, the “Ego.”

“That’s probably the difference between Ultimate and other sports. Though it’s really competitive, at the end of the day we’re all good friends. It’s a great community atmosphere,” added Sophomore Peter O’Rourke.

Jessie Austin '16 (right)
Jessie Austin ’16 (right)

Another important aspect of O-Fest is the alumni presence. In the two showcase games of the tournament pitting current Whitman Sweets against their program’s alumni, the alumni involvement is amazing. These are also typically the most competitive events and the most fun to watch.

“There are alumni coming from across the country for O-Fest. It’s really cool to play against previous Sweets, some who were our teammates in years past. And for them to come this far for the tourney really means a lot,” said Sany.

The Sweets play against ex-teammates from club and high school teams, in addition to the alumni. Onion Fest is an opportunity to show these players from Seattle or Portland what a great regional Frisbee community Whitman has.

“Most tournaments are in Seattle or Portland, so these teams would not otherwise come out here. So for me, it’s fun showing off where we live,” Sany concluded.

The tournament is about a lot more than winning, and has become a fixture of Sweets culture.

“The goofiness makes everything so friendly and fun. This event last year was what really made me feel a part of this team as a freshman,” said O’Rourke.

Elliott Hays-Wehle '16 prepares before the traditional onion-eating contest.
Elliott Hays-Wehle ’16 prepares before the traditional onion-eating contest.

One of the greatest traditions of the tournament is the sweet onion eating contest where players are chosen on the spot to race to finish the vegetable namesake of the Whitman Frisbee team. While a man from Missoula won this year, the contest is similar to the Frisbee tournament itself in that winning is rarely the top story.

“Last year, Peter O’Rourke was picked to eat the onion, and upon attempting this, he cried. That’s gotta be the highlight,” said Bladin.