Let the celebration begin!

The Cullowhee community huddled into the University Center Grand Room Thursday afternoon to get the party started in style.

Festivities began on the catwalk as university students, alumni, faculty, and staff modeled clothing designs ranging from the late 1800’s to now.

A brand new line of clothing closed out the show, with a variety of tops commemorating the 125th anniversary. These shirts will be available for purchase at the Catamount Clothing & Gifts Store in the UC throughout the year.

Guests intermingled with participants after the show as a 125th birthday cake was passed around by Western Carolina’s mascot, Paws.

“What we really wanted to have here today at Western was just a real big, great kickoff,” said WCU’s Chancellor David Belcher. “We had so many people turn out for it. I think it just fuels the momentum for the year going forward.”

Though the big event certainly caught the eye of those attending, the celebration goes far beyond entertainment. Perhaps no one knows this better than Katie Bell, a first year Public History graduate student at Western.

“Learning the stories behind the students who went here years and years ago has certainly helped sort of connect me to the campus in a way that I don’t think I would have had otherwise,” Bell said.

Assisting with the Mountain Heritage Center’s display table, Bell has gotten a crash course in Western’s history due to the anniversary.

Mark Ramsey, a Cullowhee native and alumni from Western’s 1985 graduating class, remembers a very different campus.

“My family lived in one of the residence halls,” Ramsey said. “Back then, families ran the residence halls. I lived up on the hill in Robinson back in the sixties.”

Ramsey has worked for Western for the past 20 years, and currently serves as director of alumni affairs.

“Just to see all the changes that have taken place over the last 50 years has been wonderful,” he said.

The beauty of the event is the diversity. Catamounts from different generations and backgrounds took joy in coming together to share their experiences.

[Slideshow compiled by Ceillie Simkiss]

The birthday bash continues tonight in the Ramsey Center, as the Catamounts men’s basketball team faces Davidson. Chancellor Belcher and many others will be dressed in white for “White Out Night.”

“I think our team now is playing as well as I’ve seen it since I’ve gotten here.” Belcher said. “I think that our Cats can beat their Cats tonight!”

The team is a dazzling 8-0 in Cullowhee.

Entering his ninth season as a Catamount assistant coach, Anquell McCollum is thrilled to incorporate the 125th celebration into the home magic.

“It’s phenomenal,” McCollum said. “For us, everything that’s going on with that 8-0, with that 4-1 in conference play, then you talk about it helping celebrate the 125th anniversary of the start of our university? That’s big, dude. You can’t get any bigger than that.”

It’s the sort of game that could kickoff a party with a bang, and if the Cats pull through, you can bet it will be talked about for years to come.