A hugely popular Florida A&M University tradition is getting a makeover and changing location.

Set Friday will soon move from its historic perch on South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to the grounds of the Will Packer Performing Arts Amphitheater, thanks to a $1.5 million gift from the John S. and James Foundation. L.Knight,

Set Friday, a much-loved, weekly FAMU tradition dating back to the early 90s, is an outdoor block party that gives students a chance to socialize with their peers at the end of each week with music, food , dancing, shopping and more.

But after this week’s homecoming activities, the gathering will take on a new look and layout as the function leaves the student-designated ‘Set’, a three-block stretch south of Lee Hall , across from the Student Center complex.

Andre Green, assistant dean of students and director of student activities, said the idea was still to move Set Friday to the Will Packer Performing Arts Amphitheater once it was built. The amphitheater was completed last year and dedicated in a star-studded series of events coinciding with 2021 homecoming activities. Packer, an FAMU graduate and Hollywood producer, was on hand for the honors.

Past:Will Packer, one of FAMU’s most famous alumni, returns to an amphitheater named after him

Green said Set’s traditional location was no longer suitable for the weekly gathering and the new location offers much more for students.

This new public space, which includes the Will Packer Performing Arts Amphitheater, will be known as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Plaza, FAMU announced last fall. The 25,000 square foot plaza is located adjacent to the FAMU Student Center and the current “Set” venue.

A ribbon cutting for the Knight Foundation Plaza is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Friday, coinciding with a host of homecoming activities, including FAMFEST: Nike Activation, at the amphitheater.

The Will Packer Amphitheater on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Plaza concept advances focus on multimedia

The Knight Foundation giveaway adds a new dimension to the Set Friday experience.

The giveaway includes a 30-by-18-foot Jumbotron that has been installed and will make its debut at Friday’s ribbon cutting. The teams recently installed a camera on stage which will be linked to the video card.

“We’re trying to come up with a new name, either ‘Amp Friday’ or something like that,” Green said of the rebrand.

The new “Amp Friday” layout will allow student organizations, including the Marching 100, sororities and fraternities, and modeling troupes, to use the stage and plaza layout to produce and perform performances for the remainder of FAMU’s campus and student body.

This public space provides organizations with a safer way to showcase their visual and performing arts throughout the school year using multimedia features, a central goal of the Knight Foundation’s investment in colleges. and historically black universities.

“This grant will allow students, the FAMU community, and residents of Tallahassee to experience visual and performing arts, current affairs, and other programs, both in person and virtually, at the Will Packer Performing Arts Amphitheater on the FAMU campus by integrating digital technology and equipment,” Roshell R. Rinkins, Vice President/Grants Administration and Director of DEI at the Knight Foundation, said in a Friday email to the Democrat.

The Will Packer Amphitheater on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 in Tallahassee, Florida.

The amphitheater has already brought promotional opportunities to the Florida A&M campus, including brand activations from sponsors such as Walmart, Coach and Nike, all of which are set to make an appearance for this year’s homecoming.

“They love this place because it’s a good place for them to project themselves and they can expand so we can bring different things to students,” Green said of campus collaborations.

The plan is for the square to be open to the public for rent once the renovations are complete. According to David Rosenfeld, project manager at FAMU, “Phase 3” renovations – including a fully-equipped sound system – are on hold due to supply chain issues.

Breaking with a long tradition

Historically, the Set has developed its own special recognition among alumni who make it one of their first stops during Friday visits to campus. Student entrepreneurs and local vendors are also embracing it as a collective and potentially lucrative marketplace.

Despite its shortcomings in accommodating dense crowds, current students have mixed reviews of the proposed move. Some say the tradition is deeply rooted in the history of the university and brings the campus together.

“It feels more like a family affair because everyone is close, we dance and that kind of thing,” Jayda Woods, a sophomore in the music industry, said as she walked. towards a recent Set Friday. “At the amphitheater, it’s like we’re watching a show, instead of a Set Friday.”

Others say they’re ready to look forward to what’s to come with the rebranding and all it has to offer.

“It can get a little hot and crowded, but it has a bit of a concert-like vibe,” said second-year graphic design student Klaire Carter. This spring, she got a taste of what to expect in the square by attending a probate show for the Upsilon Psi chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

“I would say they’re kind of fun because everyone gets the same experience and it’s like a concert,” she said of the layout of the place.

Democratic writer Kyla A. Sanford can be reached at [email protected]