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Around Auburn, Al: An Arena and a Festival


Auburn Arena, which opened for the 2010-2011 basketball season, recently gained a new name thanks to the largest single donation given in the history of Auburn Athletics. Bill and Connie Neville were the generous donors, but neither are Auburn graduates. Bill's father and grandparents graduated from Auburn, so Bill watched their passion for all-things-Auburn from an early age. Neville Arena has 9121 seats, and Men's Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl has created a culture at "The Jungle" which fills all of those seats and spills over into standing-room -only tickets that have a steep price -- at least when the opponents are in the SEC.

I have yet to experience an SEC basketball matchup in The Jungle, but I hope to rectify that situation soon. I was able, however, to attend a Women's Volleyball game there recently (admission was free) and found the atmosphere to be loud and exciting.

Aubie was there. The cheerleaders were there. The Tiger Paws performed dance routines.

Why, even Elvis was in the building. :) Can you spot him?

If you have an opportunity to attend a sporting event at Neville Arena, I would totally recommend that you do so. It's a guaranteed adrenalin rush.


Syrup-Soppin' Festival in Loachapoka is a one-day event held in the fall every year, usually in October. They try to pick a Saturday when Auburn football has a "bye" week or when they play an away game. If it rains on the chosen date, everyone involved is out of luck -- the organizers, the vendors, and the attendees. But, when the sun shines and the temperatures are perfect, this festival attracts hundreds and hundreds from all over Lee County and beyond. Steve and I were there on one of those festival-perfect days.

Fields a half mile away are marked off for parking ($5), and a couple of complimentary shuttles run from the various lots to the festival. We decided to walk both ways rather than to wait. At the entrance, you can see a mule walking round and round causing a grinder to mash the sweet liquid from the sugar cane. You can eventually buy pints, quarts, and gallons of cane syrup that were made fresh only a few hours earlier.

Dozens of vendors have their crafts on display, and live music can be heard as you shop.

Several food vendors set up shop and fill the air with enticing aromas.

The Lee County Historical Museum (better known as Pioneer Park) at 6500 Stage Road in Loachapoka (7 miles from Auburn) is the specific location of the festival. Nine buildings and four gardens are on the grounds of the park, providing a realistic glimpse into life during days gone by.

We never did spy anyone actually soppin' syrup, but it's a catchy name for a festival, and I bet a syrup-soppin' contest would be great fun.

** Just a note. You are likely to see many posts about Auburn attractions in the coming months. I recently signed a contract with Reedy Press to write "100 Things To Do In Auburn, Alabama Before You Die," so naturally I have quite a bit of research in my future. Stay tuned.

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