It was a picturesque scene last Thursday, almost like the movies. At the heart of campus, the Mall was crawling with students wearing purple and gold, listening to live music, throwing Frisbees, and playing on the massive inflatable Bungie Run and jousting platform. Some were off to the side break-dancing and playing fetch with their dogs–all surrounding the Cupola.
Once a year for the past 31 years, thousands of ECU students gather for Barefoot on the Mall, a celebration full of live performances, games, and endless T-shirt giveaways marking the end of spring semester.
“Being around 6,000 to 8,000 students like you, together at one time, is a powerful thing,” said Student Activities Board Special Events Chair Allie Collinson.
Collinson, Barefoot on the Mall event coordinator, takes a moment to pose in between managing set changes and T-shirt giveaways.
Barefoot organizers took on some new challenges for this year’s event: Earth Day recognition and student demands for diverse entertainment.
Student organizations helped meet the requests for diversity. The Asian Student Association had two performances: Bhangra, an Indian dance, and Style of Motion, a break-dancing team. The Black Student Union’s hip-hop dance team Nubiance performed, as well as the Alumni Association’s Magnolia Belles, an all-female singing group, and ECU’s All Stars Dance Team.
Students flocked to see ECU’s new football coach, Ruffin McNeill, for the first time as he made his debut on-campus appearance by announcing the name of the new student section in the stadium: The Boneyard. He also participated in the ECU Ambassador T-shirt Swap. McNeill replaced his Texas Tech shirt with an ECU shirt while saying, “Once a Pirate, always a Pirate!” to a roaring crowd.
“We wanted to start another tradition and enhance school pride, so we thought of swapping other university clothes for a shirt we designed–an even trade funded by the Ambassadors,” said Evan O’Brien, sophomore computer science and ECU Ambassador.
At approximately 5:30 p.m., hip-hop artist Jason Derulo drew an impressive crowd of lively fans who funneled towards the Cupola claiming a spot in front of the stage. Following Derulo was rock band Carolina Liar. Derulo’s performance included his hit single “Whatcha Say.” Carolina Liar, known for their single “Show Me What I’m Looking For,” gave a great performance.
“We try to bring up-and-coming artists to Barefoot, like we had Jason Mraz a few years ago right before he was popular,” said Collinson. “This could happen with Jason Derulo.”
Members of Crimson Refuge, whose lead singer is an ECU student, performing early Thursday afternoon.
Battle of the Bands winners Crimson Refuge, a Christian indie-rock band from Wilmington, and Mixed Solution, an electronic/house band from Raleigh, also performed earlier in the day.
“There seems to be a lot more people and a lot more going on back-to-back this year,” said Heather Garland, a sophomore marketing major. “There are more interesting stuff keeping people around longer.”
“Recycle Your Shoes, Go Barefoot,” was not just this year’s theme, but also a call for students to bring unwanted shoes for ECU to recycle. Before the event started, students already donated about 2,500 shoes.
“In continuation with our theme we have tried to recycle our goods, re-use items, and reduce our waste,” said Collinson. “Some examples of our efforts are recycling shoes and having recycling containers next to every trashcan.”
With help from Aramark, ECU’s campus dining service, Barefoot added many eco-friendly features this year on Earth Day. Designated “green zones” were placed throughout the Mall for the usual recyclables, such as plastic bottles, cans, and paper products. Student organizations also embraced the green theme.
“We are recycling ink cartridges and cell phone batteries, and we are selling recycled denim pencils and T-shirts,” said Tiffany Whaley, a senior environmental health major.
It is estimated that more than 60 student organizations or departments had tables set up with information and activities for students. “This is the best way on campus to interact with the student body and have them learn about your organization,” said Collinson.
New football coach, Ruffin McNeill, announcing the name of the new student section in the Dowdy-Ficklen stadium: The Boneyard.
To help eliminate the use of bottled water, Aramark served free purified tap-water. In addition to recycling initiatives, several vendors from local farms and businesses were present selling their produce and fresh herbs.
Always present at Barefoot, the National Guard came equipped with inflatable basketball goals and a chance for students to throw an accurate football pass for a prize.
Last year was the first year organizers played a movie concluding the festivities. The grand finale this year was a showing of The Hangover on the Mall.
“The event ran smoothly and the students responded overwhelmingly well to the performances,” said Collinson.
If there’s one thing that’s changed about Barefoot over the years, it is student involvement. Students voted online to determine the music genre of the performers, there was a campus-wide Barefoot on the Mall T-shirt design contest, and students were encouraged to bring their recyclables to the event.
“[Barefoot] brings a sense of community,” says Allegro Purro, an ECU student majoring in social work, “and is just a good celebration for the year.”
The approximate 60 members on the special events committee have worked together on the many aspects of this event.
“Barefoot on the Mall was such a success,” said Collinson. “This is one of the biggest turnouts we have seen in years. Most importantly a big thanks to all the advisors, committee members, faculty, and volunteers!”