Cornellians descended into the Ithaca Commons Saturday for the fourth annual C.U. Downtown. Saturday’s festivities were a foray for students into exploring downtown Ithaca, featuring performances from Cornell organizations, free doughnuts and plenty of give-away silicone phone wallets.
C.U. Downtown, organized in partnership between Cornell’s Tatkon Center and the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, was started in 2016 with the aim of bridging Cornell’s campus and the city.
This weekend, local business owners were outside greeting students, with some offering discounts. Cornell offices and TCAT also set up tents with give-away items and information for new students.
For many first-year students, Saturday was their first time venturing downtown.
“I just wanted to explore,” Anthony Ma ’23 told The Sun. This was his first time in the Commons since moving into Cornell three weeks ago.
Kristiana Thelen, outreach coordinator for the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, said that the goal of the event was to welcome students back to Ithaca. “We really want [the Commons] to feel like their living room,” she said.
“I really like this little walking street. It’s like Europe with its charm,” Jassa Chang-Weinberg ’23 said, admiring the stretch of storefronts, statues and plants along the Commons, which reopened in its renovated state in 2015.
Buma Gana ’22, who was working as a Tatkon Center staffer for the event, said that there were “a lot of people” in attendance at this year’s event, admiring the turnout. Free cider and doughnuts were promised to the first 1000 students.
Students were not the only ones on the Commons on Saturday — Prof. Alexander Vladimirsky, mathematics, told The Sun he came to explore “the music, the people, the happening,” while watching an ecstatic Big Red Marching Band perform in the walkway. And Janet Gillespie ’76, who worked at Cornell for 37 years, mostly in the law library, said she thought it would be fun to come down and see the next generation of Cornellians.
The events’ organizing partners even created a makeshift newspaper, complete with a scavenger hunt, a map of downtown highlighting select businesses, features on Ithaca areas to explore and a performance schedule for the afternoon.
Among the performers were Yamatai, a Japanese taiko-drummer group at Cornell. The group performed two pieces, Haru and Gaifuu — meaning “springtime” and “winds of victory,” respectively — according to member Oliver Leun ’21.
Drawing a steady crowd, Brandon Axelrod ’21, working under the name The Magic Brandini, created balloon animals and objects, including an inner tube-sized unicorn for Samantha Zhang ’23.
“This is really cool,” Zhang said. “This unicorn looks really magical.”
Aisling Llerena ’23, “didn’t want to wait until senior year to see Ithaca,” telling The Sun how the free doughnuts and opportunity for “checking out the local areas” enticed her to come downtown – she found out about the event from a Tatkon Center email.
Some accidentally stumbled upon the event in the commons: Daniel Traas ’21, an exchange student from University College Dublin, was on his way to get his haircut with a friend when he encountered the marching band’s performance.
“[We] didn’t realize this was happening … It’s pretty cool,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this post spelled the name of Brandon Axelrod ’21 incorrectly. The Sun regrets this error.