Fiddler frolics on first day of classes (Video)
2012 Fall semester: 4,476 (preliminary estimate as of Aug. 19) 2011 Fall semester: 4,566 (final count)
Bonnie Riley has been playing the fiddle since she was 11 years old.
The fiddler has spent the last five years in Branson, Mo., strummin' out tunes as a full-time musician.
Now she's back in her hometown pursuing her bachelor's degree in music.
"Missouri was really, really fun. Lots of new people, every day is a whole new crowd." Riley said. "I just missed the home state, you know?"
She was among the almost 4,500 students to begin the fall semester at Victoria college on Monday morning.
Students walked about mapping out their class schedules and picked up free snacks from welcoming booths on the way. Crackers, cookies and bottles of cold water to ensure a successful first day.
"I just got my books out and started revising the old theory methods," Riley said.
As of Monday night, preliminary enrollment numbers for Victoria College were at 4,476 - a 90 student decrease from their final enrollment numbers from last fall.
"This was something that we anticipated. Typically our enrollment will expand during recessions, people come back to school trying to secure their futures," said Victoria College President Tom Butler. "Lately we've had a real boom in employment, particularly the kind of employment that's attractive to young people. Some of our students have made the choice to go to work now and put off college."
This year, the college has two major construction projects in the works, the renovations of the Fine Arts building and the construction of an Emerging Technology Center.
The Fine Arts Building renovation is behind schedule because the February rains put a damper on construction plans.
The delay has scattered courses typically taught in the Fine Arts Building across the campus.
This semester music teacher and basketball coach, Jonathan Anderson, is teaching on one side of the campus and staying in contact with his secretary on the other side.
"It's a lot of walking," Anderson said.
Anderson taught Riley when she was at Victoria College at 19 years old.
Riley attended Victoria College for a year before transferring to the Texas State Technical College in Waco. She said she made the switch in pursuit of a stronger fiddling community and training with fiddler guru Johnny Gimble.
"I hope to bring a little life back to the live music scene in Victoria," Riley said. "Friday right after class I might have to go play a road gig."
Riley's focus now, other than forming a new group, is on getting her math credits out of the way.
"This is my follow-up," Riley said. "I'm hoping to get through with this semester and try to transfer to a bigger university."
Riley's father, Patrick Riley died two years ago. She said that his death was one of the reasons she wanted to come back to Victoria.
"He had such a passion for music," Riley said. "After I started playing the fiddle at 11 years old, he decided to learn how to play the fiddle left-handed."
Elsewhere on campus, Talon Roby made his way to his first English class with a cup of hot cocoa in his hands. Roby said this will be his second year at Victoria College and he enjoys their style of teaching.
"It's pretty much straight forward," Roby said. "They'll help you learn. They've got tutors and everything for what you need."
Walking next to Roby, was Zyron Garza making his way to speech class. Garza said he likes to start off every semester the same way.
"Twelve jumping jacks, a can of Coke and rubbing the sleep out of my eyes," Garza said.
The welcoming kiosks placed across campus will continue through the week, manned by faculty and staff.
Former bookstore customer service manager Bonnie Green worked the cash register Monday morning. "It's been busy," Green said. We don't mind it a bit."