It’s that time of year again when fireworks will fill the sky. No, it’s not the Fourth of July, but the University of North Georgia’s 21st annual Starlight Celebration.
The event, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, at the university’s Gainesville campus, will kick off the new school year and give the community a chance to see everything the university and its students, faculty and staff have to offer. The event is free, but parking is $10 and $20 for large vans or buses. North Georgia students can park for free with a valid student ID card.
“We're excited about it because we want the community to come and help us celebrate the beginning of a new academic year,” said Richard Oates, vice president of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus. “We try to give our students a warm welcome to the campus and try to develop that sense of place and belonging and we want to extend that to the community also.”
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24
How much: Free to attend, but parking is $10 for cars and $20 for large vans or busesMore info: www.ung.edu/events/starlight
On top of the fireworks that will end the night, the event will feature musical performances from students. University cheerleaders, student-athletes and the university's mascot, Nigel the Nighthawk, will be there, too.
Kids can also enjoy face-painting, inflatables, a play tent and glow items that will be available.
When Alyson Paul used to go as a spectator, that was her favorite part. She would bring her two children along with a picnic and football and let them have fun in the grass and explore all the activities.
“We just used it as a picnic day,” Paul said. “When we'd get tired of throwing the ball with them, they would run into some other kids who were playing. So from a parent perspective, it's kind of easy and relaxed entertainment.”
Now, as a volunteer at the event, she gets to see other families enjoying the same things. The university said the event usually draws 3,000-plus people.
“I think it's nice that it is an easy event where people can come and go and run into people from the community,” Paul, now the dean of students at North Georgia’s Gainesville campus, said. “I think that’s what everybody enjoys about this event.”
Oates wants people from the community to run into others they know or even make new friends. He especially hopes students who attend are able to take advantage of that aspect of the event and become a part of the community early in their collegiate career.
“We want alumni to come back on campus — friends and people who want to learn more about the university,” Oates said. “It's a good way to introduce them to our students.”
Proceeds from the event will go back into programs that benefit students at the University of North Georgia, which is part of the reason Oates and Paul hope both the community and students come to the event.
“Faculty, staff, alumni, students and the community,” Oates said. “With that kind of a mix, it's magic. It really is. And I think that's a tribute to why it's been going on for 20 years. We've got to be doing something right.”