"The Best Day of the Year"
The normally peaceful and serene Mall on ECU’s Main Campus was anything but Thursday, April 24, as thousands of students gathered to celebrate the culmination of the academic year at the 29th annual Barefoot on the Mall.
Mae performs on the main stage at this year's Barefoot on the Mall.
The celebration, put on by the Student Union Programming Board, is the pinnacle of student life activities on campus, and features live music, fun and games, food, and giveaways. Created as a modest comedy show nearly 30 years ago, Barefoot on the Mall has evolved into a massive six-hour party providing students a way to relieve stress before exams, and for seniors, one last glorious afternoon on the Mall before graduation and the real world.
Farah Hussain, president of the Student Union Programming Board explains why the event has become so popular. “Barefoot is one of those staple events. It’s the end of the year, people are graduating, and the weather is great,” she said. “I hear people all the time say ‘It’s Barefoot. It’s the best day of the year.’ And I think that pretty much sums it up. It’s just a big celebration.”
There was something for everyone at this year's Barefoot on the Mall. Enormous inflatable attractions added a carnival-like feel to the afternoon. A rock-climbing wall gave the adventurous the chance to test their abilities. A mechanical bull gave the courageous the opportunity to hang on for dear life. For the really brave this close to final exams, there was the chance to soak an ECU professor in a dunk tank.
A campus step team performs for the crowd.
For many, just hanging out on the mall or tossing a football or Frisbee with friends was enough. Emily Barker, a senior from Richmond, Virginia, enjoyed the afternoon with her dog Cosmo. Having attended previous year’s Barefoot on the Mall celebrations she offered her take on this year’s party.
“There's a lot of stuff going on and a lot of free stuff, which is good for college students,” she said. “Barefoot is just a good way to release a lot of energy after a long semester, and it’s a really good way to come out and meet people and just relax and have fun.”
But if there is any one thing that Barefoot on the Mall is known for, it’s live music. Past editions have hosted such national touring artists as John Mayer and Jason Mraz. This year, music was again the centerpiece with Mae, Wrong Way, the Urban Sophisticates, and the Jealousy Game all taking their turns on stage. Although the music undoubtedly made it tough for afternoon classes in nearby Flanagan, the opportunity to see a free concert was a draw for many students.
“The live music is definitely the best part of Barefoot,” said senior Toni Carter of Middlesex, North Carolina. “A lot of people come out and dance, and before I even came over here, I could hear the music [when I was] driving around campus.”
Barefoot on the Mall also proved to be a great opportunity for campus groups and organizations to educate students about what they do. More than 50 campus groups and organizations set up tables along the Mall. A few of the groups and organizations present were the ECU Alumni Association, Student Recreation Center’s Adventure Programs, Invisible Children, Chemistry Club, and Army ROTC.
Many groups took advantage of the event’s popularity and heavy foot traffic to raise money for charitable causes. The Student Union raised money for the Children’s Miracle Network by raffling off one of the hottest items around, an Apple iPhone.
ECU students shoot hoops at Barefoot on the Mall.
Jacob Tidwell, assistant director of student activities and major events, was one of the many staff members on hand to help the afternoon go smoothly. He said that planning for Barefoot on the Mall began last fall because of the challenges associated with scheduling the headlining band. The actual planning for the staging, attractions, and scheduling ramped up in late January. And while a lot of hard work went into this year’s Barefoot on the Mall, he’s already thinking about how next year can be even better.
“We appreciate any input from students, faculty, and staff. We enjoy the input because this is a community event, a campus event, and we’d love to know what they think about it,” said Tidwell.
Although official attendance numbers are unavailable due to the fluid nature of Barefoot on the Mall, it is estimated that at any one time, as many as 8,000 students were enjoying the festivities on the Mall.