Tar Heel Town moved to Franklin for Zero Dark Thursday
Tar Heel fans gathered on Franklin Street to enjoy festivities before UNC took on #10 University of Miami. Even though UNC fell to Miami 27-23, the fans would still like to see the town tailgate become a tradition.
The 140 West Plaza came alive with bouncy houses, a rock climbing wall, a parade by The Marching Tar Heels and the music of Liquid Pleasure on Thursday.
More than 1,000 people came out for Chapel Hill’s Tar Heel Downtown to celebrate the town and UNC before the North Carolina vs. Miami football game.
The pregame festivities were a family-friendly affair. Usually the event is held on campus and known simply as Tar Heel Town.
UNC officials expected a high volume of traffic for Thursday’s game, which was broadcast on ESPN. To alleviate the traffic and showcase Chapel Hill, the town opted to host this year’s event at 140 West Franklin, from Columbia to Mallette streets.
While some weren’t keen on the event’s new location, most seemed content with it.
“We like it a lot better here,” said longtime Tar Heel Town goer Carla Lacefield of Chapel Hill. “Most of the time we would have dinner before the game at a restaurant in town.”
UNC graduate Beverly Altman of Elizabeth City said she preferred the old Tar Heel Town experience.
“Before I got here, I thought that it would have been like it was a few years ago when I attended Carolina,” she said.
“I liked it on the quad more. I mean this is nice and all, and it’s a great way to see the town, but it’s not the Tar Heel Town I know.”
Those who attended the event said it was fun as well as safe.
“It’s a great day to be out,” said UNC sophomore Markus Von Stolz. “There’s plenty to do, and it’s a great way to see the town.”
Von Stolz, security supervisor of University Square, where many vendors set up tents, said there were no incidents during the event.
Former Chapel Hill High School science teacher and town council candidate Loren Hintz said he has been to Tar Heel Town several times, but he likes it better on Franklin Street.
“It gives people a chance to see the rest of the city,” he said. “Sure, it may be a little bit of a further walk to the stadium, but I think the festivities make up for it.”
Some out-of-towners thought the event was a good way to get acquainted with Chapel Hill.
“I think this festival has been a great way for me to see Chapel Hill for the first time,” said Tyler Ammons, a Miami fan from Coral Gables, Fla. “The town has great taste in music.”
Organizers of a cancer benefit tailgate, Zero Dark Tailgate, at He’s Not Here, found the downtown experience offered their fundraiser great exposure.
“We had a great turnout,” said Tyler Tew, a UNC senior and organizer of the tailgate fundraiser benefitting the Lineberger Cancer Center.
Tew attributed the success of his fundraiser to the downtown event and the exposure it offered. He said approximately $2,400 was raised and about 800 people attended.
“I think having the event downtown is better for the fans because it gets them interested in Chapel Hill and the businesses on Franklin Street,” he said. “It’s more of an environment accepting of a good time.”
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