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By Sam Alcorn
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Dozens of borough businesses will put out the welcome mat for Bucknell University's Class of 2014 on Monday, Aug. 23.
More than 70 merchants and restaurants, in conjunction with the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership, will participate in Welcome to the Neighborhood, the ninth annual small-town welcome for Bucknell's newest class. The welcome runs from noon to 5 p.m.
During the course of the afternoon, the 925 or so first-year students — who arrive on campus Friday, Aug. 20, to begin five days of orientation — are treated to free food and gifts from the participating businesses.
Linda Sterling, executive director of the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership, said the welcome helps to lay the foundation for a positive relationship between the new students who will spend the next four years in the borough and the downtown businesses. || Audio with Linda Sterling
"This year is really special because it's the first downtown welcome with the new bookstore," said Sterling. "The (Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University) bookstore project is a huge commitment to the community and the start of a wonderful, collaborative relationship." (The bookstore will have a grand opening celebration Aug. 27-29.)
Of the 71 businesses who are participating this year — the most ever — 50 will post 25 names of new students inside their establishments. Those listed receive a gift. The others are giving freebies to all new and transfer students.
In past years, the gifts ranged from gift certificates and homemade cookies to chocolate Bison. Last year, one shop owner hand weaved hats from alpaca wool. "They were just gorgeous," said Sterling. "She went the whole nine yards — even shearing the wool."
One Market Street merchant, Laurie Slear at the Mercantile, said she has participated in the new-student welcome every year since it started in 2002. "We always enjoy that day and meeting all the new students and welcoming them to Lewisburg," said Slear. "I think it has been quite successful."
Randy Maslow, owner of Dwellings by RJM Designs, said, "Each year we try to select a gift for students that is fun and practical — something that represents the store and helps the students to remember us."
Last year, Maslow gave out screen wipes — "cute stuffed animals with a chamois tummy that will wipe the dust off computer screens. Let's face it, these are freshmen away from home for the first time and the little stuffed animal is cute and cuddly."
This year, Dwellings will give students ... well, she's not saying. "We'd like the gift to be a surprise," she said.
As the new students make their way around the downtown, they certainly won't go hungry. More than a dozen restaurants will be providing samples of their fare.
Contact: Division of Communications