‘A Good First Experience’

Annual Block Party Draws Large Crowd Of New JMU Students

Posted: August 26, 2013

JMU freshman Katelyn Richardson, 18, from Wilmington, Mass., heads down the Snickers Obstacle Course set up at Turner Pavilion on Saturday. (Photos by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
James Madison University students reach for Sheetz T-shirts being thrown from the stage near Turner Pavilion after their march down South Main Street on Saturday during the annual Block Party in the ‘Burg.
Mayor Ted Byrd (second from left) walks next to JMU President Jonathan Alger and his wife, Mary Ann, down South Main Street to the downtown block party.
Students pack South Main Street near Court Square in downtown Harrisonburg for activities welcoming freshman and transfer students from JMU on Saturday night.
HARRISONBURG — Many of the freshmen who descended on downtown Harrisonburg Saturday didn’t know what to expect.

Even during prior visits to campus, some of the new students said they’d never cruised Main Street, making their trip downtown for the annual Block Party in the ‘Burg all the more of an unknown.

“I was really interested to come and see [downtown] because this is my home for the next four years, I think I should get acclimated,” said freshmen Frank Batten, 18, of Norfolk.

Students seemed to know one thing, though; Kline’s is a spot to be.

“It’s got a reputation,” Batten said of the ice cream joint. “I’ve just heard a lot about it.”

Added Sarah Korecky, 18, of Newport News: “Our [orientation guides] told us about Kline’s. We’re excited to go there and get ice cream.”

Thousands of JMU freshmen and transfer students participated in Saturday’s Block Party, a three-hour orientation event held in and around downtown.

JMU partners with Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance to put on the event, which featured performances, food-eating contests and shopping and restaurant deals for students.

Eddie Bumbaugh, executive director of HDR, said just like last year, about 4,000 students were expected to mull through the city center.

“We hope to give them a good first experience downtown,” Bumbaugh said. “Student life is not just on campus.”

Bumbaugh and Mayor Ted Byrd met JMU president Jonathan Alger, who led a giant crowd of freshmen from the campus Quad into downtown around 7 p.m. Saturday, at the corner of South Main Street and Cantrell Avenue.

They marched over to the grassy spot beside Turner Pavilion, where Alger, Byrd and Sheetz representative Will Zampini welcomed students to town.

Byrd said that when Alger marched to downtown as part of his inauguration festivities “he brought a lot of purple and gold with him.

“It looked good then and it looks great tonight,” Byrd said to the cheering freshmen. “We’re excited to have all of you here and we wish you much success in the coming school year.”

Alger in turn extended his thanks and gratitude to the city.

“We are so delighted to be a part of this community,” he said.

Maya Davis, 17, of Fairfax, said she was already feeling like a part of the Harrisonburg Community just after the start of the event Saturday.

“Everyone’s so welcoming and people were saying ‘hi’ from their doors,” she said. “I didn’t know that actually happened [anywhere].”

Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or esharrer@dnronline.com

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