Hundreds of new and returning Western students marched into downtown Bellingham alongside campus leaders to celebrate the new school year on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
Western President Sabah Randhawa and Associated Students President Stephanie Cheng led students from Red Square to Bellingham’s Depot Market Square in the first Paint Bellingham Blue event. The march marked a new quarter for both incoming students and President Randhawa, who took over his new position Aug. 1.
“We just love the community,” Randhawa said. “So warm, so gracious. We just have been thrilled with it.”
“What really excites me about Western is the focus on students and the focus on student success. I think it’s a hidden treasure.”
Western President Sabah Randhawa
Trees lining the streets downtown were decorated with blue lights days before the event to represent Western’s school colors, and the night culminated with the newly-upgraded sign of The Bellingham Herald changing from its standard red color to blue. A banner meant to be hung on part of the Herald building was available for students to sign in recognition of the new school year. The names will remain on the banner until the following year when the a new banner will be available for new names to be added.
“I honestly didn’t expect there to be so many people,” freshman Conner Reddick said. “But it’s astonishing. It really shows how much of a family there is.”
The march was coordinated by the Western Washington University Alumni Association to welcome incoming students to the college’s community with music, food and fireworks.
“I think it’s cool how the alumni are in more of the events and still participating in the college they went to originally,” junior Garrett Tavernier said.
Paint Bellingham Blue also featured food and clothing vendors, as well as music provided by Western’s radio station, KUGS-FM. Local businesses, including Casa Que Pasa, La Fiamma Burger and Boundary Bay Brewery, participated in the event by offering special discounts to students that will run through Sunday, Sept. 25.
Speaking to students in the Market Square, President Randhawa noted his transition to Western has been seamless due to its affinity for students.
“What really excites me about Western is the focus on students and the focus on student success,” Randhawa said. “I think it’s a hidden treasure.”
For Western alum Sean O’Meara, the night was all worth it in going towards creating a communal atmosphere for his alma mater.
“I think it’s pretty positive that the incoming students get a good welcome,” O’Meara said.