Williams College students will sampling Spring Street's fare on Sunday and Williamstown residents are invited to join them.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Spring Street's merchants are rolling out the red carpet to welcome the town's newest batch of temporary residents ... and renew acquaintances with everyone else.
Williams College will hold its second annual Spring Street Food Fair on Sunday from 4 to 7:30 p.m. to give its incoming freshman class a chance to sample some of what Williamstown's downtown has to offer.
The school ran the event on a smaller scale last year, inviting just about 225 students to participate.
This year, the entire class of 2018 will be involved, along with their advisers and the student-athletes who are in town to practice for fall sports.
"The class is approximately 550," said Katharine Levering, an assistant to the dean. "And then you have the JAs [junior advisers]. ... For the student count, we're looking at close to 900. And of course, we opened it up to the wider community as well. I think we're planning for close to 1,300."
Organizers do not expect that entire number to swamp Spring Street when the clock strikes 4.
"We have the first-year students and JAs arriving by waves," Levering said. "They'll be arriving at a staggered time period. We're hoping the community trickles in throughout the evening."
Participating restaurants this year include: Lickety Split, Tunnel City Coffee, Spring Street Market and Cafe, Thai Garden, Spice Root, Papa Charlie's, Purple Pub, Pera, Tony Sombrero's and Subway. The event also will feature non-food offerings from merchants Where'd You Get That, Nature's Closet, Hart's Pharmacy, Images Cinema, MoCA by Design, Mad Macs, School for Style and the Williams Shop.
"The chamber is thrilled that Williams is continuing to build upon last year's success with the Food Fair," Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Civello said. "Local restaurants and merchants are always eager to find new ways to attract incoming students and their families. The Food Fair is the perfect way to for businesses to showcase their items, while capitalizing on the possibility of creating customers for the next four years and beyond.
"It is the hope that these students who get a preview of what's happening on Spring Street will then share the news with their parents. And this year, Williams College hopes to include the local population in sampling this preview. This presents an opportunity for area residents to try menu options without fully committing to the expense of an evening out in a still-recovering economy — something that local businesses are very aware of as they experience the pinch with the downturn of the economy."
Levering said the college sees the event as a positive for its students as well as the local economy.
"We wanted to have an opportunity to orient them to life here on campus and build into that an opportunity to orient them to the larger community," she said.
For now, at least, that "larger community" is limited to the merchants on Spring Street. Levering said the organizers may expand the event down the road to include vendors from other parts of town.
"It's been an ongoing discussion for us," she said. "Last year, was the first year we hosted it, and the conversation came up again this year, and I imagine it will next year. One question is: Can we sustainably expand this to other merchants in town, and, if so, how do we draw the line about who is here and who is not here? How much physical space can we find around the Spring Street area? Would it be first-come, first served? Would it be members of the Chamber of Commerce?"
Students on college meal plans who attend the fair will be issued $10 in "Eph Bucks," which they can spend at participating merchants during the event. The merchants will then redeem that script for real money later in the week. Members of the public are welcome to come and spend real dollars.
The students will be required to use the reusable water bottles they receive at orientation and reusable containers for food.
In addition to opening up the evening to more students and the inviting the general public this year, the college has added live entertainment to the mix.
"New for this year, we have Misty Blues," Levering said. "They always draw a big crowd. It's always a good time. They'll be on the brick patio in front of the Purple Pub.
"We're really excited to have them."