The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Autumn delights: UNCA celebrates with Turning of the Maples festivities

UNC Asheville/Jensen McDonald
Student band performing at Turning of the Maples in front of Lipinsky. Photo Courtesy of UNC Asheville/Photo by Jensen McDonald.

Each autumn, when the maple leaves show the first signs of color, Turning of the Maples paints the quad of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, prompting students and faculty to compare campus events.  

“I feel like this is like the biggest event I have been to this year that has had the most people at it. It’s exciting to see everyone hang out,” said Mj Smithson, a 22-year-old senior studying women, gender and sexuality studies. 

Smithson said she has attended UNCA for four years, and this is her first time making it to the Turning of the Maples festival. 

“They don’t really tell you that far ahead of time and it’s in the middle of the day so I’m usually in class or working,” Smithson said.

Kaycee Mangum, a 23-year-old psychology student, said she has never attended the event before but enjoys running into people she knows on the quad. 

“I don’t really come to a lot of events unless I stumble upon them,” Mangum said. 

Turning of the Maples festivities include live music, fall-themed refreshments, a firepit to roast marshmallows and many organizations advertising what they offer. 

“I like all the tables,” Mangum said. “It’s good to get information.”

Student organizations chat and table with a game of cornhole going on in the background. Photo Courtesy of UNC Asheville/Photo by Jensen McDonald. (UNC Asheville/Jensen McDonald)

Mangum and Smithson said they are attending an event they found out about due to the tables at Turning of the Maples, thanks to the multicultural affairs organization’s commitment to informing students on the quad about upcoming occasions.

“I liked the multicultural affairs office table. I feel like I haven’t heard a lot about them, but they do a lot of really good stuff. The Hyannis House is really cool and they have that open house coming up,” Smithson said. 

According to the Hyannis House officials, they provide a safe space for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals, hosting meal markets, a quiet place to study and an event space for holding meetings or celebrations. 

“I am trying to get the word out for pre-law society and get some new members. We are a new club. We just started last semester so this is our first tabling event,” said Joseph Brennan, a 23-year-old philosophy and legal studies student.  

Brennan said this year is his first time tabling for the pre-law society. 

“The whole point of it is just to be kind of like a support group for people who are interested in law school or want to learn about law school and kind of help inform people about the transition from an undergraduate program into a law school setting. What it takes, the LSAT and applying for different places,” Brennan said.

Brennan said the event is an excellent opportunity to get people signed up for the club email list. 

“It puts everyone in one setting. Everybody kind of comes out here to talk and we’ve had a lot of people come up,” Brennan said.

Rockypalooza, named after UNCA mascot Rocky, typically occurs during the opening weeks of classes. The event brings family and friends together with games, music and food, kicking off the fall semester. 

“I know at the beginning of the year they had Rockypalooza. I went to that, which was cool. I did the axe throwing, which was really fun,” said Trifun Djukic, an 18-year-old new media student interested in arts management. 

Djukic said his job at the festival is to check in and answer questions from students arriving at the event. 

“A lot of the organizations that are here are for students, which I feel is a good thing,” Djukic said. “I would like to see more activities. This is just a lot of food and stuff. Rockypalooza had more events, sort of, like rock climbing.” 

Students roasting marshmallows and drinking cider in the middle of the quad. Photo Courtesy of UNC Asheville/Photo by Jensen McDonald. (UNC Asheville/Jensen McDonald)

Djukic said he enjoys the event because the leaves changing, mixed with all of the students milling about to the music, creates a pleasant atmosphere. 

 “I was talking with someone and they said they were lucky to time this event with the trees turning because they said last year they had to push it to a different date. They timed this one well,” Djukic said. 

Ana Claire Jackson, the associate director of programming for Highsmith, said she coordinates Turning of the Maples and Rockypalooza every year. 

“We plan it based on the leaf calendar,” Jackson said. “You can find it online through Explore Asheville. It’s like an estimate every year but they watch it and try to tell you when the leaves are gonna turn and so we find the date about a month out and then we plan.”

According to Explore Asheville, the interactive fall color map shows the leaf-changing schedule from Sept. 29 to Nov. 14. 

“I live for this. I organize Rockypalooza. This is my jam. I love that once it is started the burst of energy comes because when you are setting up it’s quiet. You don’t see much there. It’s bare bones. You have to see the vision and then make it come to life. So, that is something that is always a joy,” Jackson said.

Jackson said Rockypalooza involves many more people to work with. She said there are more factors involved because it usually revolves around commencement. 

“Rockypalooza takes much, much longer to plan. Whereas this event it’s like what you see here is what happens pretty much every year. It’s like plug and play. I know what to do and I talk to these people and it happens. Rockypalooza is just enormous,” Jackson said.

Jackson said she tracks attendance with check-in tables, but they don’t always catch everyone because of the heavy flow of traffic through the quad.

“We ordered 600 cookies and we got 150 gluten free vegan,” Jackson said. “We have a lot of cider and cocoa. I would say based off those numbers probably 800 people have come through.”

Jackson said even though they added hot cocoa to the list this year, the refreshments ran out faster than ever. She said running out of drinks is a good problem because that means participation in the event is high.

“We have about 20 organizations tabling, which varies,” Jackson said. 

Jackson said she oversees student organizations and shares the spreadsheet to sign up for the event with them. She also reaches out to key campus programmers who put out fall-themed stations, making for a fuller, more festive experience. 

“A big part of my role right now, a big part of a lot of our roles with the people I work with is we are trying to create a lot more tradition and school spirit. I think it’s there. This in itself is a tradition that happens every year and people look forward to it. Rockypalooza is that way. Homecoming in February will be that way. There is cool stuff happening and we are really working to just continue to level up every year,” Jacksons said.

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