Barefoot on the Mall 2009

Don’t judge Barefoot on the Mall by its age, because the 30-year-old springtime party has never looked better.

The staple event for ECU students started in 1979, and the Student Activities Board celebrated its 30th anniversary last Thursday by reviving some of its earliest traditions, like a steel drum band and an outdoor movie, and bringing in two headlining bands for musical entertainment—rap artist Shwayze and pop singer Eric Hutchinson.

Barefoot on the Mall '09 inset 1

A Barefoot on the Mall attendee scales a
rock-climbing tower during last Thursday's event.

In a tough economic climate in which people are trying to save money, it’s good for students to know that there are activities on campus to enjoy when their wallets restrict their fun elsewhere, said Erin Edwards, president of the Student Activities Board.

“Being a student, it’s kind of difficult right now,” she said. “So I think the economy, with the way it [is], events like this remind students that there’s good outlets on campus to get involved in to have fun without having to spend a lot of money.”

Thanks to the university’s Army ROTC, some students traded welts for glory in an enclosed Paintball arena in which rubber balls were the ammunition of choice. Two teams vied to capture each other’s flags, a feat that usually involved at least one brave soul venturing into enemy territory, where their opponents (and their guns) were waiting.

Other events included less painful ways to enjoy the day. A rock-climbing tower allowed multiple adventurers, equipped with the encouragement of their friends and the safety of a harness, to scale for the heavens. Back on earth, visitors could satisfy their sweet tooth (or create a brand new one) by helping to eat a 200-pound cake that was shaped, appropriately, like a bare foot. The culinary work of art consisted of 18 sheet cakes and 60 pounds of icing.

Complimented by the day’s sunny weather, the Mall also provided the perfect spot for people to lie on a blanket while listening to performances by Hutchinson and Shwayze, as well as Battle of the Bands winners Blount Harvey and Love and Reverie. Hutchinson—who, like Shwayze, was chosen for Barefoot by a student vote—sang from his 2008 album Sounds Like This and briefly incorporated “Heartless” by Kanye West and “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature into his set list.

Barefoot on the Mall '09 inset 2

Students, faculty, and staff got to feast on a 200-pound cake that included 60 pounds of icing.

The day attracted four sponsors, as well as 50 campus organizations—a notable increase from last year’s group of about 30—that could set up booths to promote noble causes. Victory Campus Ministries, for example, distributed information on Stop Child Trafficking Now, a national organization that raises money to rescue the young victims of sexual exploitation.

Aside from the music, volunteer opportunities, and a free outdoor showing of the college-themed movie “Accepted” that night, Barefoot also was a great time to relax before students dive into end-of-semester studying.

“Especially during finals week and everything going on, it’s nice just to relax and be able to hang out and see your friends and take a chill pill,” said Kara Snyder, a sophomore elementary education major.

This year’s Barefoot attracted up to 7,000 students—many of whom could be seen waiting in line for a free T-shirt at the Cupola—as well as faculty and staff members. It also involved more than 100 volunteers, who can now rest from their work … for a little while.

Less than 360 days from now, Barefoot turns 31.