This Sunday afternoon, as I journey to Carrboro, N.C. from Morrison dorm on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus, a thick cloud cover moves in overhead, and the wind picks up ominously, as though a storm is on its way. Having planned for several days to walk the two miles to the neighboring town and hang out for the afternoon, I’m in no mood for bad weather to play the spoiler. But the instant I cross Franklin Street and arrive at the Carrboro city limit sign, the sun mercifully appears and releases waves of warmth on the city below. A fine welcome to Carrboro, indeed.
Finding a table at Weaver Street Market at which to sit isn’t easy today. Seventy-three degree temperatures in mid-January have turned out a large local crowd for an afternoon outdoors. I kindly ask a middle-aged man sitting alone if he wouldn’t mind sharing his table. “Oh, please! Sit right down, it’s no problem at all,” he responds. I settle in with a ceramic mug of coffee and make myself at home. Rays of comfortable sun cascade over me within seconds, and I quickly shed my light jacket.
The first sense of my surroundings that comes to mind is friendly — much like Chapel Hill, although the feeling here is even more pronounced. Smiles, laughs and hugs can be seen at every turn. It is as though the problems of the world have been shut out of Carrboro’s jubilant little bubble on this gorgeous afternoon. People sit in groups as large as six or seven — most of these bigger gatherings look about student-age. Also populous are young families with small children, who romp in the open front yard of the market. More than one intense game of tag seems to be going on. The sight of kids playing lends a different feel to Carrboro than UNC’s campus and Franklin Street — this seems more like a place to raise a family and less like one for a night on the town. I find it easy to forget that I’m a mere mile away from a university. Of course, I’m sure the environment changes somewhat once the evening hours begin.
Next to the rambunctious youth is a group of dancers in early 20th-century costumes having a photoshoot. Fluid and graceful they are as they leap lightly from one position to the next with their partners — I admire them fondly for some time. Given that I love history and how people in the 21st century diligently preserve old traditions, I might look them up for a feature story. Perhaps in the process they can teach me some of their dancer ways!
Some seated at the tables around me enjoy a late lunch, while others take only a coffee or a beer. I catch bits of conversation as I survey the scene around me. Two young women, clad in athletic gear and fresh from a long run, discuss training programs for an upcoming half marathon. An older black couple talks about a wonderful church service they had attended that morning. They hold one of each other’s hands and share a cheesecake with the other. More than one UNC student can be found tapping away methodically at their laptops. After only three days of class, the semester at this elite school is already in fully swing.
I notice that there is no shortage of diversity here — something that stands in stark contrast to my hometown of Southern Pines, N.C. The latter’s population is probably about three-quarters white. My high school graduating class of 41 didn’t include a single person of another race. Moving to Chapel Hill was a refreshing breath of new air as far as meeting a more diverse population, and I was happy to see that Carrboro is much the same way. The man at the table next to me talks on his cellphone in rapid Spanish. An Asian family with three young children sits 10 feet away. Friends and families of all races mingle together as well, to the point that I hardly notice the racial differences.
I’m excited to cover news in this town. The tight-knit community feel reminds me a great deal of Southern Pines, and I know how much fun I had writing stories about the unique and eclectic activities and hobbies in which Moore County residents often engaged. Another impression I have of Carrboro is that finding something to write about won’t be difficult. Walking into any store, restaurant or public place, I bet it’s a guarantee that there’s a story behind it.