Mayor Deanna Reed poses with the Eastern Mennonite University field hockey team at Royals Go Downtown Thursday evening. More than 200 EMU students enjoyed a walk through Harrisonburg's downtown business district. Starting at Magpie Diner and following behind the EMU Pep Band, students visited area food vendors for food samples and ended with a dance party at Turner Pavilion. (Photos by Jon Styer)

Inaugural Royals Go Downtown event connects students, H’burg businesses

More than 200 Royals headed to downtown Harrisonburg Thursday evening for the first, and hopefully annual, Royals Go Downtown event.

Following the EMU Pep Band, the group started at Magpie Diner and walked a half-mile route past Sage Bird Ciderworks, Court Square, Billy Jack’s, Shirley’s Gourmet Popcord, and Oasis Fine Art & Craft — enjoying tasty treats along the way — to end with a pizza party and dancing at Turner Pavilion.

EMU President Susan Schultz Huxman and Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed at the Royals Go Downtown event Sept. 22. They dreamed up the event as a fun way to introduce EMU downtown businesses to students. (Photo by Kate Szambecki)

EMU President Susan Schultz Huxman and Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed (right) were on hand to greet the students and enjoy the festivities. Reed, a member of EMU’s Board of Trustees, and Huxman created the event to introduce students to downtown businesses and celebrate EMU’s presence in the community. It is one outcome of the university’s liaison committee with the city, founded in 2019.

“We love Harrisonburg, just rated one of the Top Ten College Towns in the country,” Huxman announced, “and we wanted to show you some of the best of this city. You’ll get to taste some great food on this walk!”

The event, jointly hosted by the President’s Office, Campus Activities Council and the Community Engagement Committee, was nearly two years in the making, delayed by COVID.

Special thanks to the following businesses for their support and food samples: Magpie Diner and Kirsten Moore ’93 (chocolate chip cookies); Sage Bird Ciderworks and Zach and Amberlee Carlson (lemonade); Jacktown, Aaron Ludwig and Joe Fowler (sticky nuggs from Billy Jack’s); Shirley’s Gourmet Popcorn, Rob and Lisa Roeschley MA ’01 (education) and Wayne ’88 and Luisa Showalter ’89 Witmer (popcorn!); Oasis Fine Art & Craft, Barbara Camph (music) ; Benny Sorrentino’s and Kristen Bowen (pizza); Quick’s Bus and Shannon Quick; Pioneer College Catering and Bruce Emmerson.

For logistical support and generosities of time and resources, EMU thanks the City of Harrisonburg, Mayor Deanna Reed and Ande Banks ’97, and Harrisonburg Police Department.

In honor of Royals Go Downtown, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance published this fun photoessay and interviews with alumni business owners: Read about their Royal pride!