By Brooks DuBose
For The Diamondback

A mix of College Park residents and University of Maryland community members gathered at Nando's Peri-Peri Thursday evening to kick off the first 3rd Thirsty Thursdays event of the semester.

The monthly happy hours began in 2015 as a collaboration between the College Park Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee and this university's community engagement office. The events, which occur on the third Thursday of each month, were originally held solely at Ledo Pizza; however, the groups recently decided to try something different.

"We decided there are so many other restaurants in the area that we should be showcasing," said Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, the community engagement office's director.

In May, the 3rd Thirsty Thursday was held in MilkBoy ArtHouse, the first time a restaurant other than Ledo hosted it. And this year, the hosting restaurant will rotate each month.

For September, Nando's offered its happy hour to attendees from 5 to 7 p.m., including free wings, hummus and other specials. Adam Carter-Headrick, the restaurant's general manager, said he was eager to host the event.

"This an opportunity to bring the community together," Carter-Headrick said.

About 20 people attended the happy hour, including Bob Catlin, a College Park resident for more than 30 years. Catlin has come to the meetings since they began two years ago, but he's excited to try some of the new restaurants.

"I try to come occasionally to keep tabs on things," he said.

The event is a great opportunity to bond with the community, said Carlos Morillo, a research scientist in the mechanical engineering department. Morillo said this was his first time attending a 3rd Thirsty Thursday, and he described it as "very personal."

"You can go up to someone and introduce yourself and have a conversation," he said.

This sort of community building is exactly what the city and university are trying to do, said Bill Gardiner, the city's assistant manager.

"The goal is to bring faculty and staff from the university to a social event with College Park residents," Gardiner said. "[It's] outreach to people who may not be that familiar with the city, particularly faculty and staff who might consider moving here."

The following 3rd Thirsty Thursday events will be similar to the one at Nando's, Blackwell said, adding that they will be casual and offer community members a chance to come together with friends.

These events truly showcase "the flavor of what this community has to offer," Blackwell said.

In the coming months, MilkBoy ArtHouse, Kapnos Taverna, the Old Maryland Grill and other College Park restaurants will host.