Welcome Back

Mipso Concert Behind the Cat's Cradle. Photo by Will Rigby.


By Laurie Paolicelli

Orange County is beginning to feel like its former self. Restaurants and bars are open, buzzing with students, visitors, and townies. The simplest things – a drink, a meal, a walk downtown – feel celebratory.

Our fare-free buses are filling up with vaccinated riders. It’s a return to what we think of around here as normal – picnics beneath the Carolina blue sky, dinners with family, football and basketball games just around the corner.

The return to a new school year and warmer weather are already drawing folks to the University. Kids are back. One change that will hang around for a while: bigger sidewalks for more outdoor dining.

Even on the warmer days there’s a cooling breeze, and as the sun filters down through the majestic greenery of the oaks and elms and pines a sense of the world being righted accompanies the sound of laughter and camaraderie.

Never before have we been more pleased to stand in a line. Returning visitors will note the new murals and public art, another reminder (if you needed it) that there’s something special about this place, down to its very bricks.

The Gray Squirrel in Carrboro is a popular coffee joint serving customers on the patio.

But the truth, of course, is that Orange County couldn’t possibly emerge from this past year the same. None of us have, so how could we expect cities to? The truth is that every single block and building has suffered loss in some form.

Sixty percent of restaurants that shut down during the pandemic are now closed for good, says a report from Yelp.

Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough have not been spared. With each closing that means dozens of jobs lost, lives upended. And yes, like you, we’ve lost family and friends.

Moorefields Hillsborough is readying for its Bluegrass Festival on the Lawn, Sept 18, 2 pm – 7 pm. Moorefields.org for info.

And yet, we know this to be true: throughout its 226 years, the Carolina community has experienced events that changed us, our nation, and the world. With each change, we’ve found new ways to face those challenges, advance and thrive.

During the pandemic, researchers at UNC Chapel Hill worked quickly to find practical and innovative solutions to the new challenges created by COVID-19. As you read this, our doctors and scientists are working to discover new medicines and developing cutting-edge technology that will provide solutions to better prepare, protect, and treat us all.

We will repair ourselves, together. That’s how we’ve always done it and it’s how we’ll do it again. Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, and Orange County in its entirety has been hurt, has been bruised.

But we’re still here. And we welcome all visitors.

Here is a look at the upcoming UNC football season:

  • Friday, Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech
  • Saturday, Sept. 11 vs. Georgia State
  • Saturday, Sept. 18 vs. Virginia
  • Saturday, Sept. 25 at Georgia Tech
  • Saturday, Oct. 2 vs. Duke
  • Saturday, Oct. 9 vs. Florida State
  • Saturday, Oct. 16 vs. Miami
  • Saturday, Oct. 30 at Notre Dame
  • Saturday, Nov. 6 vs. Wake Forest
  • Thursday, Nov. 11 at Pitt
  • Saturday, Nov. 20 vs. Wofford
  • Friday, Nov. 26 at NC State

For information on our communities:

Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

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