Wednesday nights usually bring flocks of students to Main Street for Bar Night, but this past Wednesday about 300 students headed downtown for a different type of festivity. Cardinal Night, an event organized by the Community Outreach Committee (COCo) of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), advertised students bands, a cotton candy machine, and discounts at local restaurants to bring students down the hill.

“We wanted to show Middletown that we could be their compatriots,” said COCo Chair Sylvie Stein ’12, who organized the event with Elita Irving ’13. “We had discussed how incoming freshmen don’t know anything about downtown Middletown, even though it’s a few blocks away, and we wanted to improve relations between the Wesleyan community and the Middletown Community.
Four student bands—August West, Linus, Bones Complex, and It’s Chinatown—played in the courtyard between Amici’s and the Middletown Police Department while students picked up menus, checked out which restaurants were offering discounts, and ate cotton candy.

The event was essentially free, using volunteer bands, borrowed equipment, and minimal funds from the WSA Office Budget.
According to the organizers, the event was a success, both in bringing together the University and the town and in opening up dialogue with Middletown officials.

“The collaborative effort to pull this event off was terrific,” wrote Frank Kuan, the director of the Center for Community Partnerships, in an e-mail to The Argus. “We were able to enlist assistance and guidance from the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business District, WESU, the Center for Community Partnerships, and the Middletown Commission of the Arts—not to mention the 14-plus businesses that participated.”

Stein said that COCo hopes to make the event biannual and to expand its scope.

“Next time, we want to offer discounts at restaurants from six to nine and then later for laser tag and the roller rink,” she said. “It was so easy with the restaurants that I think it would be easy to replicate with other businesses.”
Kuan said that he would like to see more events like this in the future.

“Being able to strengthen the corridor between the Wesleyan campus and Main Street Middetown helps to bridge gaps and strengthen ties,” he wrote. “The genuine interaction breaks down myths and stereotypes. Contributing to the economic vitality of downtown by our frequenting of local businesses is good for all of us.”

“I think there are a lot of skewed perceptions—it’s a two way street in the way Wesleyan views Middletown and vice versa,” Stein added. “Playing music, having fun, and interacting in informal settings improves that. It lets Wesleyan see how much Middletown has to offer and the reverse.”

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