Even with students emptying out of Gainesville, a week of freedom and possibility

By on May 7th, 2013
Turlington Plaza is virtually devoid of both students and bicycles the week following commencements and prior to summer classes. Still, opportunities abound for those remaining in Gainesville.

Ethan Magoc / WUFT News

Turlington Plaza is now virtually devoid of both students and bicycles the week following commencement and prior to summer classes. Still, opportunities abound for those remaining in Gainesville.

Maybe the rain came to wash the students away.

Some towns get cold snaps that can coax a last batch of blackberries from its vines. Gainesville gets a week without a hive of University of Florida students zipping throughout the city.

The week after spring semester finishes – the week before summer sessions start – leaves a void of students and, for others who remain, relatively uninhibited access to the city.

Gainesville Police Department Spokesman Ben Tobias said the town empties every year, like clockwork. And the department anticipates it, increasing patrol in neighborhoods to protect ghost towns of student housing.

But there are positives to the freedom.

“I guess you could say traffic isn’t as frustrating,” Tobias said. “Even just getting to calls is a lot easier. There’s less waiting. It gives us a faster response time.”

With the city safe, skies and roads relatively empty, the only things really left should be peace and potential.

The city is yours. What do you want to do? You could try something new, meet some people, see the sides of the city hidden behind the rush of cars, pedestrians and bicycles that lead to Gainesville’s gridlock.

You could sing in the Sanctuary of Silence.

That sanctuary is where a half-hour course in choral confidence is taught by Daniella at Shands Cancer on Wednesday, starting at 5 p.m.

You could fill that whole empty week.

The good weather predicted should leave hiking trails green from the rain, with highlights from May flowers.

For $7 you could win a raffled quilt, hear Teddy Pruett, the noted quilt appraiser, talk about his thing, all while witnessing 20 years of the Tree City Quilt Guild’s glory at the Best Western Plus Gateway Grand Hotel on 97th Boulevard.

Or, on the same day, embody your inner Star Wars character at the Tower Road Library’s “May the Fourth be With You,” celebration from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Or maybe you’re afraid. Afraid to leave the house, afraid of that odd looking rock sitting in your garage, afraid of your own voice — there’s a class on overcoming fear at the Alachua Branch Library on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m, which should get you ready for Wednesday’s singing class at Shands.

By then you’re probably an expert, comfortable enough in your own skin to sing. So comfortable, you can be a kid again and go build out your dreams for 45 minutes with the Lego Club at the Alachua branch of the Alachua County Library District at 3 p.m.

If you’re feeling good having enjoyed the ephemeral freedom openly traversing the sleeping city, enough to see the quiet trails, lineless restaurants and unused chairs, join the club.

You could make some friends at the Newberry Branch library on Thursday at 11 a.m. by walking alongside others who just want some company on the streets.

Or you could squeeze the solidarity for all it’s worth and retire into a world of your own creation, learning to grow your own citrus with the Alachua County Extension Office at 3 p.m. the same day.

By Friday, laundry cycles will spin piles of clothing clean, groceries carts will fill, made cheaper by the perks of home, as the vacationers prepare their return to the Swamp.

In the final moments of the city’s rest, you could do the same. Rest. Just enjoy the last draws of silence.

If you listen close on Friday night, you might be able to hear sounds from your childhood as Disney songs resonate from the hands and lungs of the Gainesville Orchestra at the Phillips Center at 7:30 p.m. If you pay the $35, or about half for kids, you could just watch it from the inside.

Maybe the week without the students made you forget. Maybe it wasn’t enough time to.

Wrap the week up on Saturday at the Downtown Library. The staff is going to hand a mic to kids in an open review of books they read. Or at the very least, test the limitations of that microphone.

There are a slew of events that a few minutes searching the Internet will bring to surface. Nearly any day can be used to fulfill the potential. With traffic down, safety up and the world at your fingertips, what will you do with peace and possibility?

Learn something? Meet someone? Maybe you can just sit in the silence.

“It’s that one week in the semester we get to come up for a little bit of air,” Tobias said.

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