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FallFest will celebrate 20 years in new location

Thousands of UNC community members gathered at Hooker Field Sunday night for Fall Fest, where sponsors, local vendors and UNC organizations celebrated the beginning of the new school year.
Thousands of UNC community members gathered at Hooker Field Sunday night for Fall Fest, where sponsors, local vendors and UNC organizations celebrated the beginning of the new school year.

The annual block party introduces new Tar Heels to students organizations and free food. The event, which usually draws crowds around 25,000, has been held on South Road, Hooker Fields and the School of Government parking deck in past years.

This year, it will be held in the S11 lot between the Dean E. Smith Center and the Kenan-Flagler Business school.

Megan Johnson, associate director for communications and creative services for the Carolina Union, said the delay in construction at Hooker Fields caused the FallFest committee to have to search for a new location.

“I know there are pros and cons to having it in the former locations, like on Hooker Fields.” Johnson said. “There are pros and cons to having it in this year’s location, based on where first-year, transfer and returning students live, but we hope that it will be a really appealing location.”

Don Luse, who was the director of the Carolina Union for 20 years and helped lead efforts to create FallFest, said the event was created to combat the campus tradition of going to Big Fraternity Court to party before fall classes began.

“It had gotten to the point where, I think the year before we started FallFest, there were something like 36 arrests for alcohol violations and in those days, you really had to do something bad to get arrested,” Luse said. “So things had kind of gotten out of control on that Sunday night before classes began.”

Anne King, design and education coordinator for the Carolina Union, said the new location could be appealing to new students.

“I think it turned out to be a great option for a variety of reasons: the space and then we’ll also be by a lot of freshman housing so that will be convenient for them,” King said.

Although FallFest won’t be in its usual location, Johnson said the new location has perks — including space for additional student organizations. She said inflatables and vendors from previous years will still be present.

“I think students will be really excited about the footprint because I think you’ll be able to look around the event and see things a little bit easier than in the past, you had to navigate up to South Road or down to (Hooker) Fields or up to the School of Government deck,” Johnson said. “This is all more on one flat surface.”

Johnson said this year’s FallFest will have other new initiatives, such as a social media scavenger hunt and giveaways for the 20th anniversary. She said they will also use social media to distribute maps and directories for the event.

Aaron Bachenheimer, director of fraternity and sorority life and community involvement, said FallFest moved to Hooker Fields after being held exclusively on South Road.

“Back when it was on South Road, it was really cramped so it was nice when the move was made to sort of move it predominantly to Hooker Fields because it provided a lot more space,” he said.

“I think the S11 sort of Dean Dome location this year is have a similar effect, having a large number of student orgs — which is really what at the end of the day it’s all about, trying to connect predominantly new students, although some returning students, to student experiences that they can be a part of.”

Neha Batra, co-captain of Bhangra Elite, said performing at Fallfest is an important part of recruiting for their team because people can see how Bhangra dance differs from UNC’s other dance teams.

“We’re hoping since the Dean Dome is closer to South Campus, more freshman will be at FallFest for a longer period of time,” she said.

New Student Convocation, which is held before FallFest for first-years, will be held in Carmichael Arena. Johnson said it will not be held in the Dean Dome this year because of renovations being done to it.

“There are a lot of projects going on this summer and so we did the absolute best we could and we are really excited about this location,” she said.

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