Florence offers on and off campus entertainment

The Geek Gathering offers cosplay opportunities while raising money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Shoals.

By Student Writer Courtney Watkins

Students looking for something different to do off campus have a variety of options.

The Geek Gathering is a fundraising event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Shoals in Sheffield in September.

The ticket price is $11 at the door for a one-day pass or $13 for a weekend pass. This ticket is all-inclusive allowing anyone to participate in Geek Gathering events.

Director and co-owner John Alsbrooks started it as an outlet for people with visual artistic ability in the Shoals area.

Events include concerts, cosplay contests, various panels from different genres, Geek Trivia and photo ops with special guests.

Alsbrooks said $2 from each ticket sold at the door goes to the organization.

Every year the Alabama Renaissance Faire is held in Wilson Park, renamed Fountain-on-the-Green, during the fourth Saturday and Sunday in October.

October is Renaissance month, and various events are held, including costume-making workshops and lectures from UNA professors and others who know about the period.

Families attend the not-for-profit event to shop, eat and participate in little boat races in the fountain. Vendors set up in the park to sell their wares which include clothing, replication swords and even craft beer.

On the first Friday of each month from March to December, downtown Florence is awash with people shopping, eating and enjoying local entertainment at First Fridays.

Craft vendors set up booths along Court Street to show off and sell their artwork, while on Mobile Street different bands play on the stage sponsored by Big River Broadcasting.

It costs nothing to go and there is plenty to see and do.

“It’s a great way to get acquainted with the community,” said Chairman of the First Fridays committee Andy Frith.

Many restaurants stay packed throughout the entire night. Trowbridge’s is a favorite for many UNA students who want ice cream or milkshakes. Other restaurants on the street include Yumm, Ricatoni’s, Rosie’s and Chicago Café.

The event, sponsored by Downtown Florence Unlimited, will celebrate its 10th anniversary Aug. 7 with a big celebration.

If students prefer to stay on campus, there are plenty of locations they can go to eat, get coffee, relax or be entertained. The Commons building has a Chick-fil-A, Starbucks Coffee and Frostbite Frozen Treats. Having opened in 2014, the Commons building is one of UNA’s most recent constructions.

UNA sophomore Hayden Nichols spends much time in the Commons building between classes. “Chick-fil-A and Starbucks are amongst the favorites for most students,” Nichols said. “Personally I feel that you can’t go wrong with Chick-fil-A. They have top-notch speed of service, quality of food and a super friendly staff.”

The Guillot University Center is the hub of UNA’s daily bustle. On its first floor, the GUC houses a food court, which includes an A&W Express, Pizza Hut Express, Sub Connection, Simply To Go and

Mein Bowl as well as Einstein Bros. Bagels.

Also located on the first floor of the GUC is a game room where students have choices between pingpong and multiplayer video games on current-generation systems such as the Xbox One and Playstation 4.

On the second floor of the GUC is the performance center, which hosts a variety of speakers, comedians, film-screenings and musicians.

Connected to UNA’s parking deck at the far end of campus is the Student Recreation Center. The SRC contains a weight room, gymnasium and a spinning room. On the bottom floor is World of Wings, a diner that serves chicken wings, burgers, wraps and more.

Editor’s Note: Student Writer Evan Sandy contributed to this report.