Gold Rush, a weekend event in Dahlonega that is expected to draw more than 200,000 people this year, is held in honor of the 1828 discovery of gold in the area. The celebration, to be held Oct. 19 and 20 this year, features activities such as a parade, gold panning contest, and more than 300 art, craft and food exhibitors. Phil Collins, associate vice president for alumni relations and annual giving at the University of North Georgia (UNG), talks about how UNG contributes to the festival.
How does Gold Rush tie into UNG's history and tradition?
Gold Rush provides an opportunity for alumni to return to Dahlonega to gather with classmates, other alumni, faculty and staff at a time when the weather is moderate and the fall colors are nearing peak.
In the early 70s, the university began holding an informal reception for young alumni behind the building that now houses the College of Education offices on Chestatee Street. Alumni would come to the Gold Rush festival during the day, spread the word about the party and finish the day catching up with 100 or more people.
Eventually, the alumni association became the sponsor of the event and changed it to an "Alumni Association Member Reception" to attract alumni to become members of the association. Today, the venue is the patio of the new Dining Facility. Admission for alumni association members is free, kids and guests pay a nominal fee and non-members are encouraged to join. It's not uncommon for the crowds to exceed 200 and the atmosphere is festive.
The most memorable time for me has always been at 5 p.m., when retreat is sounded and instantly everyone gathered is on their feet, facing the flag near Memorial Hall paying respect to our nation as the colors are lowered marking the end of the day. There are few other universities in the nation where this happens and just talking about it gives me chills.
What events during the weekend will be of special interest to UNG students and alumni?
The Saturday reception from 4 to 6 p.m. is the most notable alumni event, but we also take pride in seeing the Corps of Cadets participate in the annual Gold Rush Parade. It's not Gold Rush without at least one loop around the town square where you will see vendors who have been on the scene for more than 30 years. For example, Win Crannell, a retired faculty member whose art is featured in almost every building on campus, occupies prime territory adjacent to the old Court House.
How does the Gold Rush Reception engage and benefit UNG alumni?
The reception serves as the catalyst for renewing friendships and remembering shared experiences while attending school on the Dahlonega Campus. It allows alumni to separate themselves from the Gold Rush tourists, escape the crowd on the square and let their kids run around in a friendly environment while they take a load off their feet. When a non-alumnus hears about Gold Rush they think of the festival, but when a UNG Dahlonega alumnus hears "Gold Rush," they think of getting together with their college friends.