On a gray Saturday afternoon in September, Colby students boarded yellow school buses and headed downtown to Waterville for a day of music, fun—and relationship building.
Kicking off the academic year, the inaugural Hill ’n the ’Ville festival was designed to improve the student-town relationship as well as to help Colby students make a good first impression with area residents.
Town-gown relations have been strained at times in recent years (see “Good Neighbors?” spring 2007 Colby), largely over alcohol-related incidents. Efforts to bridge the divide are ongoing, with both Colby and Waterville seeing success through community service projects last year.
The newest Colby-Waterville event was the brainchild of Ryan Collins ’08 and Adam Geringer-Dunn ’08, who first conceived of the downtown festival when they were sophomores.
“There are lots of good people up here who do a lot of good things that people don’t know about,” Collins said. “We want to put names and faces together and both sides [will benefit].”
He and Geringer-Dunn pitched the idea to Nick Cade ’08, a friend who became president of the Student Government Association this year. Cade threw himself into the project, opting to stay at Colby over the summer, partly to help bring Hill ’n the ’Ville together. He coordinated with local businesses and worked with Erik Thomas, Main Street gallery owner and a member of Waterville Main Street, a downtown civic group, for the day-long festival at Head of Falls, between Front Street and the Kennebec River.
The result: Waterville families, couples, and Colby students visited food vendors, danced, and chatted in front of a stage on which different groups played music all day. Children watched the dunk tank as Cade and Jeffrey Coombs, assistant director of Colby security, obligingly got soaked.
Rain initially limited the size of the audience, but, as evening approached, clouds parted and the event ended under a beautiful sunset.
Shannon Haines, executive director of Waterville Main Street, said the festival was “a good test” for similar events that aim to bring the students and the community together. “In many ways Waterville doesn’t seem like a college town because there are not many students [downtown],” she said. “But the turnout at Hill ’n the ’Ville was half students, half community. That was good.”
Thinking ahead to future Hill ’n the ’Ville festivals, Cade said the long-term goal is to make the event better and with more revenue so that it can become a self-sustaining activity, enduring long after current organizers have graduated.