Greenville, NC: Our Experience Growing Together

Like many freshmen in college I went off to a new city, living away from my parents for the first time not really knowing what to expect.  What would my major be?  Would I make tons of friends?  What was this new city like?  Would I fit in here? I had all these thoughts coming to Greenville, NC from Rocky Mount my freshman year at East Carolina University.  What I did not know was that Greenville would become so much more than just a “college town” that I would graduate and move on from.  I would come to find out that as I would grow and transition through life, Greenville would grow with me begging me to stay.

After graduation, it was evident I was living in more than just a “college town.” It was growing to become the place to offer you what you cannot find just anywhere; small town feeling with all the amenities you are accustomed to in the “big city” such as dining, theatre, shopping, arts, medical care, and certainly sporting events.   I started to see that Greenville could very much be a place to stay, start my career, settle down, and begin a family.  The list of things to do and programs offered throughout the community were growing rapidly. To me, the most appealing change was the revitalization of the downtown area, now being called “Uptown” and becoming more of an adult oriented area as opposed to just “old college bars.”  Greenville was becoming a revitalization project almost; the type of place I could not only live in, but where I could become an active citizen.  It was starting to show me it was the type of city that supported its people and vice versa, and in turn the two help each other grow.

As I grew and began to see everything Greenville had to offer, I learned there are certain days of the week you should mark on your calendar when you live in Greenville.  Wednesday’s are for the Umbrella Market at 5 Points Plaza where you can buy locally grown produce, baked goods (even for your pets), art and jewelry, crafts, and even some homemade wines and craft brews.  It is a different spin on your normal farmer’s market.  Friday’s before home football games are saved for Freeboot Fridays, also at 5 Points Plaza.  This is a time for family and friends to come together for a huge pep rally style evening of fun, music, food, and drinks.  Don’t worry, when Football season ends your Fridays will be reserved for First Friday Artwalks.  This is the First Friday of each month when galleries Uptown open their doors to showcase new work, while restaurants and shops show their support by offering specials to the art walkers.  Lastly, you make sure to mark your Sunday’s for “Sunday in the Park” to wind down your weekend with live music and dancing.  Some of your local yoga teachers even teach classes on Sunday in the park during the summer.

When it comes to the arts, Greenville has many different things to offer depending on your taste.  You can always catch a play at the McGinnis Theatre on ECU’s campus during the performance season between October and May.  The season consists of musicals, dramas, comedies, and dance performances by ECU’s School of Theatre and Dance.  There is also the Magnolia Arts Center that began in 2005 with the dream of creating a comprehensive arts organization for the Greenville area.  The MAC, as it is known to locals, strives to educate, entertain, and enrich the community through producing quality theater and preforming arts programs.   Then just last year Courtyard Cinema was launched in the courtyard located in Uptown Greenville, behind Fire American Tavern allowing you to watch a free movie under the stars every Friday night from October through December.  However, we must not forget one of the most distinguishable places to check out local art is the Greenville Museum of Art in the old Flanagan Home on South Evans St.  The GMA celebrates local artists through temporary and permanent exhibits as well as the history of the Flanagan House itself.  You can even tap into your inner artist by taking a class or workshop through the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge Gallery and Art Center or visiting one of our local shops like the Painted Peacock or Wine and Design.

If you are an active person, Greenville is a great place for you to be.  Besides being named Sportstown USA by Sports Illustrated, Greenville has also been since named a “Playful City, USA” by a non-profit organization KaBOOM which is dedicated to bringing play back into children’s lives.  Greenville has over twenty-five parks, several golf courses, and a range of activities from kids to seniors.  Whether it is hiking, boating, and learning in the nature museum at River Park North, or getting out on the Greenway for an afternoon walk Greenville has a variety of ways to get you outside and get active.  Greenville hosts the Senior Games in the spring each year as well as the Special Olympics Programs providing year round training and competition.  The little league teams here bring a lot of noise, but don’t underestimate the girls, our Pitt County Girls Softball League teams have earned nine world series titles.

The last thing I can say about Greenville that kept me falling in love was the festivals and food, and with those come the people.  While we have great, unique places to dine like Starlight Café, Winslow’s, the Scullery (delicious homemade ice cream), DAP House, and more new local owned, non-chain restaurants, the one thing Greenville has and is most notably known for is BBQ.  Some people may think of BBQ and think of a cookout with friends, but in Greenville you are thinking of B’s BBQ, Parker’s, Sam Jones, Moore’s,  and all the great BBQ places that come with a large helping of pulled pork and some “fixins” on the side.  One of the best places to sample all the great local food is at the Pirate Festival every April.  Everyone comes together to celebrate Eastern North Carolina’s rich pirate history over the fun of carnival festivities, delicious and unique food, art vendors, plenty of piratical happenings, parades, and much more!  Pirate Fest really showcases what Greenville is about, it is about the community coming together to showcase the best of the area from artists, to restaurants, to unique recreational activities.

To sum it up, Greenville is no longer a “college town” to me but instead it is home.  It is a town that I have fallen very much in love with and grown with over the past 18 years.  I have grown to appreciate the local features of the Greenville; its appreciation for local artists and dining experiences.  I learned that this town was more of a place to call home because as I would grow, it would grow with me.  It is the people in this community that make everything happen.  There are “Greenvillians” as they are called that have put so much into this community that they give graciously back, allowing it to grow and thrive thus bringing more people here to fall in love and stay.  In fact, in 2014 Greenville was included in USA Weekend Travel’s List of 5 Great, Lesser-Known Places to Retire for providing amenities, services, and opportunities retirees need to enjoy active and productive lives so I can see that Greenville has not stopped its growing yet and I am here for the long haul with excitement to see what is yet to come.

By Grayson Rattew
Uptown Umbrella Market
Uptown Umbrella Market
Greenville Museum of Art