For the past few years Elon University has stepped up its efforts to be a bigger presence in Alamance County and specifically its nearby neighbor — Burlington.
I first noticed it six or so years ago when Dr. Connie Book was then an associate provost at Elon. She reached out to the newspaper where I was then an editor to initiate a partnership that would become the Community Connections program. We worked together with professors, staff and students to develop public forums where important local, state and national issues were discussed featuring experts from around the region and state. Elon was the host and people in Alamance were invited to come and participate. Many did but we always hoped for many more. I will also note that hundreds of Elon students volunteer throughout Alamance County or serve internships with businesses and organizations. Elon aready has a big local footprint. Larger than most realize.
Today, Dr. Book is the president of the university and I know it’s her goal to engage the students, faculty and staff with organizations, businesses and people in Burlington. Friday, Sept. 27 they turn up the volume a bit more — quite a bit more. Elon is partnering with B–town Events — a division of the city’s Recreation and Parks Department — along with the Burlington Downtown Corporation to produce Phoenix Fourth Friday, a four-hour evening event in downtown Burlington featuring music, food trucks, drinks and special features that include downtown businesses. Phoenix Fourth Friday closes Burlington’s annual and already popular Fourth Friday spring / summer series and is part of Elon’s Family Weekend festivities for the first time.
Here is how it’s described on Today at Elon, the university’s website, as one of many things for the families of Elon students to do..
Phoenix Fourth Friday
Historic Downtown Depot, Burlington, NC, 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Burlington City B-Town Events and Burlington Downtown Corporation bring you this exciting event you won’t want to miss! Experience local food trucks, live performances, merchant giveaways, family friendly activities, and much more. Attendance is free, and shuttles will run every half hour from campus (Inman Admissions loop) to downtown. If you plan to drive, you can use Burlington Downtown Depot, 200 S. Main Street, as the destination address. Street parking is available. Be sure to wear your maroon and gold, and join us for this fun-filled community event!
Elon is expecting more than 5,000 parents and other family members to be on campus Friday and Saturday. and many of those may check out Burlington. Phoenix Fourth Friday is strong encouragement for families, students, faculty and staff to venture into downtown Burlington after the Fall Convocation speech by Nikki Haley, one of the most prominent political figures in the nation, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and one-time governor of South Carolina. A large crowd is expected to attend her speech at the Schar Center on campus. Two Elon BioBuses will be utilized as shuttles instead of the usual one.
Burlington’s Fourth Fridays are generally well-attended but organizers have added more of everything this week in anticipation of a larger crowd. Jessica Pasion, executive director of the Burlington Downtown Corporation said there will be more food trucks, beer and wine vendors and music. The evening will feature three musical acts, topped by local favorites Love & Valor at 7:30 p.m. Several downtown businesses are generating special deals or events. For example, The Blend & Co., a neat coffee and pastry place on Front Street will use the patio that connects to the STEAM Junction maker space as a gathering point that will feature vendors, including pottery. Speaking of STEAM Junction, it plans an open house during Phoenix Fourth Friday. Elon will also have some features downtown, including appearances by Phoenix athletes.
It lines up as a cool opportunity for Elon folks to get acquainted with people and things in Burlington, and vice-versa. It’s certainly a novel way for the two communities to draw closer and also pushes Burlington’s downtown more toward what it is working to become — the center for entertainment, dining, the arts, creativity and innovation in our community.
Oh, and while you’re there, walk a short distance from the depot to the back of Bella’s House Consignment and check Burlington’s new and breathtaking downtown mural. You can read more about it here and here.