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Welcome Student Weekend is returning to downtown Ithaca this weekend after the program experienced a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Welcome Student Weekend introduces college students to life in downtown Ithaca and provides an opportunity for student performance groups to share their musical and artistic talents with the community. This special two-day celebration will be held Saturday, Sept. 10, for Cornell University and Saturday, Sept. 17, for Ithaca College (IC) and Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) from 12 to 5 p.m. on and around the Ithaca Commons.

“Welcome Weekend is Downtown Ithaca’s way of developing a stronger connection with the student population, encouraging them to frequently visit downtown and feel comfortable in this community during their college years. Downtown offers a host of shops, restaurants, services, and entertainment for students to feel at home in Ithaca,” says Hannah Bistocchi, marketing director for the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA).

Roughly 2,500 first-time Cornell University students, Cornell RAs, and staff are expected to participate in CU Downtown from 12 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10. CU Downtown is organized by the Tatkon Center, a Cornell University support and resource center for first-year students, in partnership with the Cornell Office of Community Relations, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, and Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT). 

“CU Downtown is the first opportunity for new students to visit downtown Ithaca and begin a lasting relationship with the community. The event aims to help new students discover the Ithaca community and learn how much downtown Ithaca offers. Furthermore, the event provides student performers with an opportunity to contribute to the vitality and culture of Ithaca through an afternoon of performances. This event is hopefully the first of many opportunities students and Ithaca community members have to engage with one another,” says Taylor Bouraad, assistant director for Cornell University’s First Year Experience at the Tatkon Center for New Students.

Cornell’s entertainment-infused day includes live performances by Cornell student groups and music entertainment at the Bernie Milton Pavilion. Some acts include Acappella groups The TouchtonesLast Call, The Hangovers Singing, and The Chordials, along with the vibrant and entertaining Big Red Marching Band and Pep Band performing as one. Cornell Bhangra and Yamatai Taiko drumming will share their cultural heritage. Plus, Cornell Lion Dance, African Dance, Cornell Bhangra, and Capoeira Angola Quintal will offer dynamic performances. These stellar acts are free and open to the public to view and enjoy.  

On Saturday, Sept. 17, an estimated 600 new Ithaca College (IC) students and roughly 100-150 new TC3 students, several residence assistants, and staff will make the trek downtown, where they will participate in similar activities. As part of the day’s entertainment, student-performance groups IthacappellaPitch PleaseIC Tone ColdIC Premium Blend, and IC Unbound will offer a series of dynamic performances.

“We are looking forward to this special weekend activity for our students. We also encourage local alums and friends of Ithaca College to participate. Downtown merchants will welcome IC students with discounts, games, and the like, while IC student groups will provide entertainment at the Bernie Milton Pavilion. TCAT will offer free service for IC students on its Route 11 Bus from 11 a.m. -3 p.m. when you leave the Towers Bus Stop. Students need to present their student ID to receive this service for free,” says Eileen Roth, IC assistant director of Residential Engagement.

“Tompkins Cortland Community College is excited to participate in the Downtown Ithaca Welcome Students event! You might not know it, but we have over 250 students living in residence halls on our campus that would love to be more connected to the vibrant downtown Ithaca scene. This is the perfect way to get them acclimated to the great shops and dining on the Commons”, says Deborah Mohlenhoff, TC3’s vice president of college relations and chief of staff. 

CU, IC and TC3 students will also be able to participate in many activities, including a Stranger Things-inspired scavenger hunt where they will be competing for top prizes.  

In addition to the activities, downtown shops and restaurants will offer unique samples, discounts, and freebies for the students who stop by. Self-guided exploration of downtown will round out the Welcome Weekend activities.

Downtown Ithaca regularly offers crowd-drawing events. The community is home to unique boutiques, galleries, shops, specialty stores, health care services, hair salons, barber shops, theaters, and dozens of locally-owned restaurants serving various American and cultural foods.

As part of Welcome Student Weekend, students will get a glimpse of these types of establishments available on The Ithaca Commons, Press Bay Alley & Court and west downtown, Dewitt Mall, Cayuga and Green streets, and Aurora Street/East State.