In the midst of our high-tech world, a couple of sensory powers are somewhat left out. We read and interact with touch screens while listening to music on myriad devices, but we only taste and smell what is peripheral to the tech experience. We can peruse Foodie websites for hours, but taste won’t come into play until we abandon the tech experience long enough to prepare something tangible to the physical palate. Of course, smell works the same way.

Tech times have consigned some formerly common smells into the realm of rare. For instance, mimeograph. Pre Xerox, we mimeographed to get multiple copies of the same page. Oh the joy of being the student chosen for this errand! Crisp, inky, marks-a-lot-like scent poured from the machine as it spit out purpley copies of the original document. How about that unread, mint-condition odor that wafted from a brand new textbook? Or, one of my favorites, the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil and new eraser. This is the stuff of yesteryear’s school days.

Back-to-school smells quite different for today’s students, I imagine. Perhaps for them, it’s that plasticky scent of new electronics just out of the box. All smells aside and in spite of the technological gap, the first day of the new semester is a common experience across generations. Then and now students check syllabi, review campus maps, identify building and classroom locations, get a bead on new professors’ expectations, and meet fellow classmates from around the globe. This was the shared adventure of nearly 50,000 students returning to Denton’s houses of higher education last week.

School and office supply shelves appear ransacked, even empty some places.   Traffic is more cumbersome, lines are longer, crowds are larger. The evidence is everywhere. They’re back, and we’re glad to see them.

Businesses across the city have snagged my attention the past couple of weeks with digital signs and posters heralding “Welcome Back Students.” Golden Triangle Mall, for instance has color-appropriate messages, green to UNT and maroon to TWU students. While summer feels like “throw-back season” to slower, less trafficked Denton days, retailers all over town have looked forward to students’ return since they left. I think we all miss them if for no other reason than the up-tick in cultural, creative energy they infuse just by being here.

Football season also arrives with students’ return, and there’s a blustery enthusiasm blowing for Mean Green Football, especially after last year’s season of exceptional firsts. In 2013, UNT Mean Green moved from the Sun Belt to Conference USA. Winning Coach Dan McCarney took the team’s helm. And more than 30,000 of us spent New Year’s Day watching the Mean Green win the Heart of Dallas Bowl. And we are ready to do it again.

This week, the Mean Green will play the first of six games scheduled on Apogee turf for 2014, heralding the official kick off of the season-long Mean Green Game Day experience initiative. This campaign is a partnership between Mean Green Athletics, the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Denton Country Transportation Authority (DCTA) designed to broaden Game Day to include more of Denton. The fan experience now encompasses the downtown entertainment district, retail and restaurants, the Mean Green Tailgate Village, and the football game itself. A seamless and fare-free DCTA-sponsored shuttle connects the dots for game-goers.

Returning students are in for a surprise when they see how quickly the construction evolution has changed things in the short time since summer began. I-35 E is a constant saga of traffic shifts and lane closures. And while the Hickory Street Improvement Project is moving quickly, the closed section in the heart of downtown is a bit intimidating at first glance.

The Mean Green Game Day launch is planned to address these transportation challenges for all of us, not just students. Imagine enjoying downtown with no parking obstacles! Med Park Station’s giant parking facility is the key. Visitors and residents alike are invited to take advantage of free parking at Med Park, a quick A-train ride to the Downtown Denton Transit Center, and then free shuttle rides from the station to points around downtown, out to the Apogee Pedestrian Bridge and back again.

Some smells just don’t change. After UNT’s exciting game on the road last week in Austin, the air in Denton is full of heady, back-to-school aromas, char-grilled and fan-charged. Lean your head back and breathe deep. It’s a new semester indeed.

Welcome back, Students, and Go Mean Green!