By Laurie Paolicelli
From: Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau
On behalf of all of us in Orange County, North Carolina, including the towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough – thank you. Thank you for being autumn. Others may seek to claim you, to boast that your beauty is greater there than it is here. But they would be wrong.
In Autumn our tree-rich campus turns golden, soft beneath a carpet of falling leaves. Our neighborhoods and the farms that surround us actually seem to glow orange and red and yellow and purple and ochre. Our poplars and maples and oaks, some here long before any of us were, stand tall against the sharp blue of the Carolina sky. It reminds us why this place was chosen as the site for the nation’s first public university. Beauty does not distract us; it sustains us.
In Carrboro, students are throwing Frisbees, playing disc golf, and jogging past the mill houses. They smile, they wave. You might hear the occasional Go Heels! A beautiful sentiment, made more beautiful in the chilling air.
Even during this pandemic, which we do not take lightly around here, our creative community has found a way to dot the streets with illustrations and paintings reminding folks to vote.
Autumn is a beautiful time to vote.
Our galleries are hosting online events, our Journalism School is inviting the public to hear about Ida B. Wells, our town leaders are getting ready to unveil a new mural of the great Libba Cotten, the folk singer born in Chapel Hill in 1893. Famous for the song “Freight Train.” She invented a new way to play the guitar called “Cotten picking.”
On Saturdays both the Carrboro and Chapel Hill Farmer’s markets are brimming with residents who, masks donned, buy their seasonal produce and flowers. And pumpkins. Look at those pumpkins.
Squash soup, apple pie, charred Brussels sprouts, eggplant and pork chops – they are still to be found in our restaurants, which are open for outdoor and limited indoor seating as well. Sitting outside on an autumn evening, with someone you love, the stars like the crystals in a snow globe glowing above you – what beats that?
On a country drive, 10 miles down the way to Hillsborough, the Riverwalk is a glorious procession of life – couples, families, and the solitary travelers slowly walking through the browning leaves, the air as cool as the other side of the pillow, feeling the distant warmth of the sun.
Our pubs are serving their traditional fare, outdoors, and making the best of these trying days.
People who come here to see the leaves change often see their lives changed. Many move here. Those that don’t come again.
So here we are, Autumn, in the most beautiful place there is to find you, a place you make more beautiful with your presence. We are gearing up for outdoor fun: An outdoor, drive-in film fest, heated outdoor tables for dining and wine, campus walks and yes, even as the weather ices, ice cream at our legendary Maple View Farms.
Dearest Autumn: We want visitors here all year round – they are always invited – but now, especially now, this is where they should be, just to experience this brilliant season, to be with family and friends, to bask in a town that reflects your autumnal glory with such perfection that it would not be hard to believe we invented you.
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.