Back to the Bricks, the annual and festive Olde Towne event that welcomes freshmen and transfer Mississippi College students to Clinton, is revamped for virtual spaces this summer, as MC confines events to campus and city-focused introductions move online to social media.
It’s yet another adjustment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as communities take steps to limit crowds, but also strive to maintain traditions.
MC’s Welcome Week is scheduled for August 8-13, as MC adjusts its academic calendar so the semester finishes at Thanksgiving. Welcome Week is an introduction to the campus and student life, with a glimpse of all the different things the students can become involved in, says Jonathan Nutt, director of student engagement at MC. Research shows the first few weeks of college can be critical in determining students’ persistence and success at the institution.
“It’s important they get a good sense of what life is like at MC,” Nutt says.
Back to the Bricks, a project of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Clinton and the City of Clinton, is the Clinton component to that equation, putting students in touch with the local businesses, services, churches and more that can support and enhance their years at MC. That connection is a two-way street, where businesses, organizations and townfolk benefit, too.
“It’s something we didn’t want to completely give up on,” says T.J. McSparrin, Clinton Chamber of Commerce executive director. “This is our opportunity to welcome the students back to Clinton, and make them understand how glad we are that they’re back.”
“They live here, they go to school here, they also need to do business here,” McSparrin says, and Back to the Bricks was a fun, active way to bring them all together.
“The energy and vibe students bring as they start to infiltrate Clinton just brings a vibrancy to our downtown,” says Tara Lytal, director of Main Street Clinton. “Also, when they leave, it feels like the air has been sucked out of our community. We’re not Starkville, we’re not Oxford, but we feel it.”
“Everybody feels the hit when they’re gone, and certainly the boost when they’re here,” Lytal says, and Clinton’s restaurants likely feel the biggest boost.
Plans for this year’s virtual welcome, rather than gathering on Olde Towne’s brick streets, will entail short videos from businesses such as banks, salons, gyms and more, that will be posted on MC’s social media for Welcome Week, along with a virtual tour of downtown, with a message from Mayor Phil Fisher and highlights that include the town’s parks, shopping areas and more. Participating businesses are asked to provide door prizes for giveaways throughout the week.
Yard signs echo the welcome message. A coupon collection on an O-ring, with discounts and handy intros and info, will be distributed to students, too.
“It’s another opportunity for businesses to put something in the students’ hands,” says Lytal. “We’re just adjusting and adapting and trying to re-envision everything we do.”
Back to the Bricks organizers hope student newcomers discover restaurants, churches, gyms, salons, banks, stores, local parks and perks that will enhance their time at MC. With participation deadlines fast approaching, the challenge is getting businesses to sign on for this new twist on what has traditionally been a carnival-like block party on the brick streets, with games, giveaways and music.
“I hate they’re going to miss that,” McSparrin says, “but, if it’s done correctly, they’ll have a good feel for Clinton and know the city is happy they’re back.”
For more information about Back to the Bricks, call the Clinton Chamber at 601-924-5912 or Main Street Clinton at 601-924-5472.