Waffle House at 510 N State of Franklin Rd, is decorated for ETSU Pride. Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press
Pride in East Tennessee State University should be swelling throughout Northeast Tennessee ahead of the start of the 2013 fall semester this weekend.
The 16th ETSU Pride Week, an annual awareness campaign celebrating the school and its impact on the region, actually begins Thursday and continues through Aug. 30.
“Engage the Dream” is the theme of this year’s observance.
“One of the new things that we have this year for Pride is Geocaching,” said Lee Ann Davis, director of university alumni programs.
Geocaching is essentially a treasure hunt that uses GPS-enabled devices. Participants will located “hidden” treasures across campus for a chance to win prizes like pens, caps and t-shirts. Once you find a treasure, you hide it somewhere else so another person can find it.
“So that’s something that’s kind of neat that’s new,” she said.
Part of Pride Week includes a competition among local businesses to see which one decorates in the most ETSU-related apparel.
The Waffle House on State of Franklin Road was all decked out in ETSU pride, and employees dressed up as buccaneers.
The Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union was also done up in the blue and gold of ETSU for this year’s competition.
The celebration kicks off today with ETSU Pride Night at Bristol Motor Speedway. For this event the 1,000 incoming freshmen participating in Preview ETSU will get free admission to the NASCAR Camping World Series 200 and the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 race.
Thursday is move-in day for freshmen who will live on campus this semester.
Friday is Blue and Gold Day across the Tri-Cities. For this event, all businesses are encouraged to have employees wear ETSU Pride t-shirts or other school paraphernalia.
ETSU President Brian Noland will also deliver a state of the university address to students in the D.P. Culp University Center. This is the first time a student convocation has been held.
Friday is also Pride night at the Appalachian Fair. Anyone wearing ETSU paraphernalia will get $1 off admission.
Activities continue next week. For a complete schedule of Pride Week events, visit www.etsu.edu/alumni. For more information or special assistance for those with disabilities, call the ETSU Alumni Office at (423) 439-4218.
And, of course, the iconic ETSU Pride signs have been placed across the region.
Bob Plummer, associate vice president of university advancement and executive director of the ETSU Alumni Association, said the annual Pride Week celebration has helped build a relationship between the school and the larger community of Northeast Tennessee.
“It’s an exciting thing for us,” Plummer said. “It’s a great way for the community to embrace us and our students as they arrive.”
He said many universities do not enjoy the community support that ETSU does. Pride Week shows evidence of that, Plummer said.
“Pride (Week) is one of those things in the course of 16 years that has brought the town and gown closer together,” he said.