In case you’ve been hiding somewhere recently and haven’t noticed, it’s safe to come out again. It’s time to reclaim the town. The students have left Fayetteville for the summer.
Now, before we go further, let me say this: I love having the students here. I fully understand just how critical their enthusiasm, creative forces and tax revenue contributions are to this town. I’ll be ready for them to come back in the fall and take in football games and watch the joy on people’s faces as they walk through the farmers’ market for the first time or try their first burger at Hugo’s.
But let’s be clear about this, too: Fayetteville is much different in June and July than it is in any other month of the year. Here are the 10 best ways to take advantage of a student-free summer in Fayetteville:
- Drive free and easy – Fewer people in this town means fewer people on the roads, which further means it doesn’t take as long to get across town. That 15-minute trek to get from downtown to Joyce Avenue? Plan for 10 minutes the next six weeks. Also, be wary at the start of school. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have been in a Fayetteville fender bender with someone driving around a new town and not knowing where they are going.
- Go to Dickson Street after 10 p.m. – Non-college-aged folks like myself can often be found on Dickson Street while students are still here. But that usually happens at happy hours, like the one at George’s Majestic Lounge, or sitting in the sunshine at Brewski’s, which opens at 2 p.m. to greet an earlier crowd. When the masses descend on Dickson later in the evening, it changes the culture and the climate there. But feel free to walk down to Dickson later in the evening and not feel like an old person for a limited time.
- Not run in to students – This one sounds like a no-brainer in a story about how students are gone. But it has a specific meaning. I posed the question about the benefits of a student-free summer on Facebook. More than one University of Arkansas teacher assures me it only takes one unrequested, drunken hug from a student to make you want to wait for the semester to end before venturing back out.
- Go see a Northwest Arkansas Naturals baseball game – Now that the Arkansas Razorbacks’ sporting calendar has concluded for the year, you can switch your attention to the minor league baseball team in Springdale. Monday nights – when hot dogs are just $1 – are a particularly good time to go.
- Get a table – Been by Sassy’s Red House or Kingfish (or most local restaurants) on a nice afternoon or evening only to have problems finding a seat? Try again now.
- Volunteer more – Places like the Fayetteville Animal Shelter have a near surplus of volunteer dog walkers during the spring and fall semesters. But that’s not the case when school lets out for the summer and Fayetteville has fewer resident. The University of Arkansas Center for Community Engagement keeps a database of volunteering needs in the community. Many organizations need your help this summer, so see what’s out there.
- Shop local – Just like for many of the volunteer organizations, the economic climate changes for many businesses when the students (and the parents of students) stop visiting local stores. Help with the cause and buy from a neighbor who owns a store.
- Go see a concert – Of course, there are plenty of live music offerings when students are present. But the tone shifts a bit when students are away. Looking at the calendar for George’s Majestic Lounge, you won’t see much in the way of electronica. You will see more indie rock, blues and bluegrass. That’s not a coincidence.
- Attend a Chihuly Saturday Night event at Crystal Bridges – This one isn’t exactly student specific. But, these concerts surrounded by an outdoor art exhibit only take place through Aug. 14, so you must go this summer if you want to see one for yourself. Live music takes place on the new North Forest Trail, where a series of works by the famed glass artist Dale Chihuly have also been installed. See a full list of the Saturday performers at the Chihuly information page. Next up is local Americana act Smokey & the Mirror at 6:30 p.m. June 17 followed by Ozark Highballers at 8 p.m.
- Take a splash – The Wilson Park pools opened for the season on June 3. That’s right after students left. It closes for the season on Aug. 14. That’s right before they return. Which means the pool is yours for the taking.