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Barefoot bash signals end of spring classes

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Students sing along to performances on the mall at East Carolina University for Barefoot on the Mall on April 23, 2019. (Molly Urbina/The Daily Reflector)

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By Karen Eckert
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Nothing says “carefree” quite like going barefoot.

Thousands of ECU students had the chance to shed their shoes and sink their toes into the Mall’s thick, green lawn on Tuesday in celebration of the last day of spring semester classes and the end of the academic year.

The 41st Annual Barefoot on the Mall Celebration, one of ECU’s oldest traditions, was held from 3-8 p.m. on a warm and sunny afternoon. It featured inflatables, music, food, free T-shirts and an involvement fair.

Sydney Williams, a 21-year-old junior from Washington. D.C., jumped at the chance to bounce on Xtreme Air, a kind of trampoline where the bouncer is supported by a harness.

It was actually a repeat performance for Williams, who had tried the trampoline last year, she said. 

“It (is)...like being an acrobat in a circus kind of — well, what I imagine that to be like,” she said.

She said it was cool to do flips that she might not normally be able to do on the ground.

“I’m a risk-taker so I like doing stuff like this,” she said.

Something else that Williams likes doing is celebrating the end of classes.

“I’m happy. I’m ready to go,” said Williams, who is double-majoring in public health and nutrition science.

It was not just students who ventured out onto the Mall.

Monique Best and Candi High, who work in the Administration and Finance Division, stepped out of their office for a brief break to take in the scene. They said they enjoy coming out to Barefoot on the Mall each year to see what’s new and to listen to the music.

They also like seeing the students so happy and excited, they said.

“Every year it gets better and better,” said Best, who has witnessed many different Barefoot  events during the years she has worked at ECU. “I say that because (each year) there are more and more vendors.”

Best likes the addition of community food trucks that are invited to participate. Trucks this year included Starbucks Coffee, Street Eats, Kona Ice, Grid Grub and Tacos Mama Chava.

Also expected were Kono Pizza and Mr. Cheesesteak, said Darrius Barrow, assistant director for student programming.

Free cake is an annual feature at all Barefoot on the Mall events, said Krista Wilheim, assistant director in the Office of Student Activities and Organizations.

Each year the staff of Aramark, ECU’s food service company, designs and bakes a special cake that reflects the theme of the event. 

This year’s event theme was “Barestock,” which is a play off of “Woodstock,”  Barrow said.

New football coach Mike Houston had the honor of cutting the cake,  Wilheim said.

The musical headliner at the event was T-Pain, American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer. Opening for him was Kris Allen, an American singer/songwriter and winner of the eighth season of American Idol.

Preceding both of these groups in the performance line-up was New York City-based “Backtrack,” an award-winning, five-person a cappella group, and freshman Allison Brooks, winner of ECU’s Pirates Got Talent competition held in February.

In addition to fun, food and music, another key component of the Barefoot event is the involvement fair, Wilhelm said. 

The fair allows campus departments and organizations to announce upcoming events for next year, she said, and there were approximately 90 tables set up.

Among the many groups represented were the ECU Sailing Club, Women’s Rugby, the Student Government Association and the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center.

Representatives from apartment complexes, such as The Bellamy, The Landing, The Bower and The Davis also were on hand to provide students with information about student housing options.

Manning one table were Kong Lee, a graduate student in occupational safety and Blake Halsey, an undergraduate in political science, who were talking to students about the LiveSafe app, designed to help students have a safe experience on campus.

The app allows students to anonymously report tips to ECU police, get emergency help, find resources on campus, walk virtually with friends or call SafeRide, according to literature Lee and Halsey were handing out.

The student-led event is presented each year by the Student Activities Board and is paid for through student activity fees, Wilhelm said. It was expected to draw 7,000 or more students.

“We’re just really excited about this year — like every year — that the end of the school year is here and we can all celebrate together with our students,” Wilhelm said.

It’s back to more serious business today, which is Reading Day. Exams start on Thursday and run through May 2. Commencement is on May 3. 

For more information about student activities at ECU visit https://studentaffairs.ecu.edu/. For more information about commencement visit https://commencement.ecu.edu/.

Karen Eckert can be reached at 252-329-9565 or keckert@reflector.com.

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