Bulldogs brave a cloudburst: Rain cuts Welcome Back Barton festivities short

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Mother Nature displayed her unpredictability Monday when a chance of rain turned into a deluge, largely raining out Barton College’s annual Welcome Back Barton event.

“It’s just a summertime storm that’s going by,” said Megan Edwards of the Farris and Farris law firm.

Edwards and Heather Warren had just set up the firm’s table display and were preparing to greet students.

Participants hoped the rain would be short-lived. Then the bottom fell out.

“We were done setting up, then the rain came down and we started stuffing everything under the tables,” Warren said.

The event, sponsored by the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, had 80 vendors this year. The gathering’s mission is to welcome new students and returning students to the college and to Wilson.

Free giveaways are the hallmark of the festivities, with a slight sales pitch about the business, governmental entity, church or club.

“It’s just stressing me out because we really wanted to go to Welcome Back Barton,” said McKayla Benton, a freshman who walked through the rain sharing an umbrella with two friends.

“This is my last year doing Welcome Back Barton, so I figured it might as well rain,” said student Ashlyn Glover of Wilson.

Shawn Patel of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches made a mad dash across center campus with a box of sandwiches. He dashed into the Hamlin Student Center to give away the food. The center was a fall-back location for those waiting for the rain to stop.

“It’s better to be inside,” Patel said. “The rain ruined a great event.”

Nancy Hawley, president of the Democratic Women of Wilson County, shared an umbrella with Deborah Baro of Wilson as the two women headed for the safety of the student center as lightning struck.

“We needed the rain,” Hawley said. “We are going to look at it as a good thing.”

Hawley said the rain helped cool down the temperature.

“The students love this event,” Hawley said.

Ryan Simons, executive director of the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, said organizers had planned a Thursday rain date, but there’s a higher chance of showers and storms Thursday than there was Monday.

“I would hate to ask our vendors to return knowing that the result is likely to be the same,” Simons said. “It did cool down at least. For as long as I have been doing it, this is the first time it actually poured on us. I feel bad for the vendors and I feel bad for the students, but this is summertime in eastern North Carolina.”

The rainout didn’t bother student Bailey Bass.

“I don’t mind the rain that much,” she said.

Bass said the rain made her first day of classes at Barton College memorable.

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