A version of this article previously ran in the July 14 edition of The Daily Tar Heel.
This year, it will be held in the S11 lot between the Dean E. Smith Center and the Kenan-Flagler Business School.
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 started. He said the tradition included loud bands, a large amount of alcohol and the possibility of dangerous situations.
“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.”
Luse said University officials at the time came together to create a positive alternative that fostered a sense of community.
“The challenge was, what kind of event do you put together that will be more attractive than going off campus and, again, drinking as much as you can drink?”
He said after consulting students, they learned students were attracted to free food and entertainment, which turned into allowing campus organizations to perform. The event became a place for connecting with other students, learning about traditions and becoming a part of the campus community.
New location, same fun
FallFest will be held in its new location due to a delay in construction on Hooker Fields.
“I know there are pros and cons to having it in the former locations, like on Hooker Fields,” said Megan Johnson, spokesperson for the Carolina Union.
“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.”
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.
Lauren Mangili, senior associate director of business and strategic planning for Campus Recreation, said the pavement of the new location will make the sports and games typically played at FallFest more difficult, but they will be using the South Campus Recreation Complex to make up for it.
“Fortunately, we’re really excited about being able to showcase the South Campus Recreation Center, what we refer to as the SCRC, because I don’t think a lot of people are familiar with it,” Mangili said.
Mangili said the move to the S11 lot could be a positive change because of how crowded the usual space becomes.
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 Smith Center this year because of renovations.
“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.
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 several years ago 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 going … to 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.