July 25, 2006

LEWISBURG, Pa. — In a unique community welcome, dozens of downtown Lewisburg merchants will greet Bucknell's 930-member Class of 2010 with free food and gifts shortly after they arrive on campus in August.

"Welcome to the Neighborhood: Lewisburg Day," now in its fifth year, will be celebrated Monday, Aug. 21, from noon to 5 p.m.

Each of the 40 to 50 merchants participating in the welcome will be provided with the names of 20 or so first-year and transfer students. When a student finds his or her name on a list at a business establishment, they introduce themselves and receive a gift from that merchant.

Gifts range from handmade wool bookmarks to chocolate-candy Bison. All the while, downtown restaurants provide a signature taste of their fare.

The welcome program is "absolutely awesome," said Linda Sterling, director of the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership, the group that promotes the downtown commercial area and works with the campus New Student Orientation program to coordinate the event.

"This is a great way to make the new students feel welcome in their community," said Sterling. "And it pays dividends. Students make the downtown part of their life and when they come back, they often bring their parents, too."

Sterling said she recently attended a conference where participants discussed town-gown relations in their own towns. "Everyone raved about the success we're having here in Lewisburg," she said, adding that the Lewisburg event takes on a festive feel as the downtown dresses up with blue and orange balloons and colorful door and window welcome signs.

Amy Badal, assistant dean of students at Bucknell, said the event, which last year saw about 90 percent of the incoming class participate, has evolved over time. "It's really grown over the years," she said. "It provides students with a warm welcome to the neighborhood and leaves students with a favorable impression of their new community."

Merchants take their participation seriously, too. For many of the smaller businesses, providing 20 or so gifts is a sizeable outlay. "For some, it can translate to their entire advertising budget for a month," said Sterling.

One baker, she noted, gets up at 2 a.m. to provide each member of the incoming class with a freshly baked homemade cookie. "Now, that's special," said Sterling.

Posted July 25, 2006

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