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The Ithacan

The Student News Site of Ithaca College

The Ithacan

The Student News Site of Ithaca College

The Ithacan

The three colleges of Ithaca welcomed on The Commons

Maddy Dombrow/The Ithacan
Ithaca’s third Welcome Student Weekend celebrated students from Ithaca College, Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College with performances from Ithacapella and Premium Blend on the Ithaca Commons.

Downtown Ithaca Alliance’s (DIA) Welcome Student Weekend was held this year on Saturday, Sept. 9, from noon to 5 p.m. The event was geared toward first-year college students to introduce them to the different businesses, events and organizations in town but was also open to the entire Ithaca community: students of all years, parents and children, teachers and Ithaca residents of all ages.  

Last year’s Welcome Student Weekend signified the end of a two-year break from the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. President La Jerne Terry Cornish said she was glad to have the event back after COVID-19 disrupted past years’ events.  

“It’s really great that we’re out again and that people are coming together again,” Cornish said.  

Cornish made an appearance at this year’s event and cordially welcomed all students and community members to the Downtown Ithaca area, but shouted out Ithaca College specifically.

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“We’re one of the best college towns in America, so this is a way to show off, but also to build community among the three colleges as well,” Cornish said. “We hope you have a great time. This is a place for you to live, to work and to play, and so we are delighted you are here, have fun. I thank you — I hope to see you around, and enjoy the day.” 

This year’s event was the first time all three schools, Cornell University, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3), were recognized on the same day. Every year, Welcome Student Weekend involves a scavenger hunt game. Hannah Bistocchi, Marketing Director of the DIA, said the scavenger hunt is typically the crowd favorite out of all the events offered. 

The theme of the 2022 Welcome Student Weekend scavenger hunt was “Stranger Things.” Because this year’s event was centered around plants, participants were challenged to hunt for hidden plant images found in participating locations, like Buffalo Street Books, Home Green Home and the Brain Shoppe. 

Participants were then instructed to upload a photo of their completed checklist for a chance to win the Downtown Ithaca Raffle Gift Basket, which presented the winner with over $200 worth of gift cards and other prizes. 

Scavenger hunt participants walked away with varying impressions of the game. Some students found the scavenger hunt to be challenging, while others viewed it as a great way to explore the local businesses that Ithaca has to offer. 

“Some of the clues have been a little tough, but it’s still really fun,” Cornell junior Graham Ross said.  

When walking around The Commons, one could not distinguish between average patrons of a given store and active participants of the scavenger hunt. Cornell first-year Holden Hitchcock said many of the shops on The Commons did not seem like they knew about the event. 

“Considering how much the scavenger hunt was encouraged, a lot of the stores do not seem like they are ‘with’ the event at all,” Hitchcock said, “I was expecting there to be people out and about or more location booths set up.” 

Cornell first-year Jane Gugerty said she was from 30 minutes outside of Ithaca, which helped her with the scavenger hunt. 

“I have been to a majority of the locations listed on the scavenger hunt and they have some pretty good places on here,” Gugerty said. 

Walking around The Commons, one could see that almost every individual had picked up one of the available booklets or pamphlets in addition to the free DIA tote bags being distributed at one of the tents. 

Alongside a Welcome Student Weekend booklet, which housed the scavenger hunt instructions, a general map of downtown and a list of the various Ithaca businesses, attendees of the event were given a Downtown Ithaca Guide & Map. With this booklet, individuals could learn about Downtown Ithaca festivals, concerts and other events occurring through March 2024, as well as Downtown Ithaca’s history, information on local hotels, local transportation and more. 

“It is cool to be given [the booklets], and it must be especially useful for kids who are new to the area,” Cornell junior Emma Lee said. 

From left to right, Aura Page and Margaret Fraser experienced all there was at the Welcome Student Weekend, from visiting shops, listening to live music to popping bubbles. Kaeleigh Banda/The Ithacan

Student performance groups from both Cornell and Ithaca College showcased their work during the event, like the Cornell Marching and Pep Band, Ithacappella and Premium Blend. 

Nearby children on The Commons playground and patrons of Paris Baguette were greeted by the Cornell Marching and Pep Band, which paraded through The Commons a few minutes after 12 p.m. to kick off the event. The band stationed themselves at the center of The Commons and performed a few songs as they attracted a growing crowd of those passing through.

Ithaca College first-year Sam Armstrong attended the Welcome Student event and watched the band’s performance of percussion and horn playing, in addition to a series of chants led by their Drum Major, who towered over the ensemble on a ladder. 

“They seemed like they were having a lot of fun,” Armstrong said. 

After warming up with a verse of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Ithaca College’s very own Ithacappella, an all-male identifying a capella group, sang an original and self-promotional tune that labeled the group as being connected “soul to soul, brother to brother.”

 Ithacappella presented themselves as one collective unit by all wearing flannel shirts as they got on stage. People watched the performance out on the Bernie Milton Pavilion, sitting and enjoying the free apple cider donuts handed out by Cornell throughout the day or admiring their recently acquired DIA tote bags. 

Junior Grant King, Ithacappella’s social media marketing manager, said he has been performing with the group for three years and performed at Welcome Student Weekend in 2022. He said he thought the group’s performance on The Commons went well. 

“We have been working on a few of these songs for the past couple of weeks,” King said. “Every year I’ve been here we sing songs for the public. … It’s awesome.” 

Welcome Student Weekend provided students with an opportunity to unite with friends at the start of the school year. Sophomore Evan Mandell said he came to Welcome Student Weekend, eager and excited to watch Ithacappella perform in support of his roommate and friends, especially the group’s rendition of “Coney Island Baby”.  

“Great performance today, great songs,” Mandell said. “I love that Coney Island little tune.” 

Downtown Ithaca hosts other events in and around The Commons throughout the year that students and Ithaca community members can attend. Sophomore Madden McLeod has attended other Downtown Ithaca events, like the Apple Harvest Festival, and said they are really looking forward to attending again this fall. This year’s Apple Fest will be taking place between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1. 

“Last year, [Apple Fest] was the same weekend as parent’s weekend and so I got to experience it with my family, which was really fun,” McLeod said via email. “It’s such a fantastic event and it brings people from Ithaca, Cornell, and even the locals all together. I think like all of the Ithaca events, it really just creates this sense of community because everyone is coming together to just have fun.”

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