Fall in Chapel Hill is a time of traditions, from FallFest to Halloween on Franklin Street. With the COVID-19 pandemic and an adjusted semester schedule, however, some aspects of town culture may be put on pause for the time being or take a new form in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
Here are some iconic events that may look very different in the upcoming semester:
Held immediately after New Student Convocation, FallFest typically kicks off the school year. New and returning students crowd Hooker Fields to learn about student organizations and generally grab as many free things as possible, including food, T-shirts and other UNC paraphernalia. The atmosphere can get hectic as students file through the maze of club booths, food trucks and student performances. Although it’s unclear how FallFest will proceed this year, joining campus organizations is still worthwhile. In the spirit of many students at the event in years past, try to add your student email to the Listservs of any groups you have even a slight interest in joining — you can always unsubscribe later.
Concerts and dances at Cat’s Cradle and Local 506
Cat’s Cradle is a historic live music venue in Carrboro, within walking distance from campus, and a popular place for students looking to attend shows. Musicians that play the Cradle range from small indie acts to major artists, and normal touring years have an eclectic line-up that provides opportunities for students looking for any kind of entertainment. Local 506 is a music bar in downtown Chapel Hill that’s open to all ages and hosts intimate rock shows from local bands and touring artists. Concerts aren’t the only live music events to attend — both of these venues frequently host DJ nights and dance parties, and Cat’s Cradle hosts dances put on by WXYC, UNC’s student-run radio station.
Halloween on Franklin Street
Halloween on Franklin Street is a yearly tradition where an entire section of Franklin Street is closed down so UNC students and members of the Chapel Hill community can walk around in costume. Weather permitting, Halloween festivities are usually pretty bustling as thousands of people head to Franklin Street with friends, often in creative group costumes. Even in regular years, the size of the crowd necessitates safety guidelines and alcohol checkpoints, but it’s a simple and reliable way to make Halloween plans.
"Rocky Horror Picture Show"
Another hallmark of the Halloween season at UNC is the Pauper Players’ annual production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which is now five years running. The interactive show takes place at the Varsity Theatre on Franklin Street, where actors perform the cult classic as the movie is projected onto a screen behind them. Audience participation is encouraged, and the entire theater gets on their feet to dance and sing along to “The Time Warp.” The result is fun, revelrous and extremely popular — last year, the Pauper Players added two shows to their previously scheduled four after tickets sold out in less than 24 hours.
If you follow UNC basketball, you’ve more than likely seen photos of Franklin Street packed with students after the Tar Heels won a national championship or a game against Duke, singing the alma mater or setting couches on fire in celebration. Dropping everything to grab your friends and run to Franklin Street from the Dean Dome or wherever you’re watching the game is an invigorating experience, perhaps one that students may not be able to experience this year due to the uncertainty surrounding the sports season, but the community that comes together in iconic Carolina moments like these will remain long after COVID-19 is gone.
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