Reunions and Commencement Preparations
The preparations for Reunions and Commencement at Princeton involve most of the people who work in Facilities. Over 21,000 people attend Reunions and another 10,000 come to Princeton for the events surrounding Commencement. The planning begins months in advance with an accurate map of each event location created by the Facilities GIS section. Every event site is laid out in virtual space, marked out for underground utilities and a fury of permitting with local municipalities.
After the plan is set, Grounds and Building Maintenance begins preparation of the sites for the major reunions and they help arrange for rental and installation of the headquarters tents. The Grounds crews trim back trees, shrubs, and around countless tent pins and poles. The ground planes are leveled, drainage and accessibility needs are addressed and at the same time, barricades and fences are installed for security purposes. The Carpenters determine placement of dance floors and band platforms and erect temporary safety barriers. The Electricians install lighting under the tents and provide electrical outlets for musical equipment. The Lock Shop prepares hundreds of keys for returning Alumni to use in the dorms.
Building Services is responsible for the care of the sites before, during, and after the events. In addition to Princeton’s event equipment, they also arrange for the rental of thousands of tables and chairs for the reunion sites and other campus meal sites. Over the course of this time, literally tens of thousands of chairs, tables, podiums, coat racks, platforms, and bars are utilized. Trash collection is a huge task; Building Services is continuously removing trash and recycling from the sites throughout Reunions. The janitors are busy cleaning rooms before and after the events and cleaning bathrooms and common spaces throughout the weekend.
Dining Services is out in force throughout the events. Working 24 hours, they prepare over 40,000 meals and cater approximately 270 events. The Princeton Bake Shop starts baking at 3:00 a.m., just when the late-night concessions outside the Reunion headquarters call it a day. Alumni and guests appreciate the small details such as the water stations at the P-rade. Be it snacks and barbecue or fine sit-down dining, Dining Services strives to give every guest who comes to Princeton a great experience.
The Housing Department is very active during reunions/commencement. A program called “Operation Mattress” provides housing for the parents of graduating seniors, giving them a chance to experience life on campus for the three days of Commencement events. Including reunions, over 2500 of sets of linens and pillows are provided with rooms; when the events are finished, the pillows are donated to the Trenton Rescue Mission. Students who work reunions are provided housing for the duration of those events. Conference and Event Services provides special temporary signage for the main campus, helping our guests, students, parents, and alumni find their way through the many events and activities.
The Grounds Crew also helps with the setup for the P-rade. After an early morning walk with the Marshall’s of the P-rade, the line of march is delineated from Fitzrandolph Gate to Poe field and dotted with class year signs that are coordinated and spaced by the size of each returning class. Tons of bunker sand, miles of security fencing and hundreds of signs are installed in preparation for the annual display of fireworks near Lake Carnegie on Saturday night. The necessary inspections are conducted by Facilities, Public Safety and Township/Princeton fire Marshalls. The Electric Shop also supplies the special electrical needs for this event.
Facilities personnel place thousands of chairs in preparation for the events surrounding Commencement at Nassau Green, Cannon Green, Firestone Plaza, and Jadwin Gym. Setting out these chairs and ensuring they are laid out in a neat and orderly manner is a huge undertaking and planning begins months in advance. Like Reunions, planning begins with an accurate map of each location and every chair is laid out in virtual space. This year's plan called for 10,017 chairs to be placed just on Nassau Green. Seen from the air, the pattern suggests the Princeton shield.
At 6:00 a.m. on the Sunday before Commencement, a group from Grounds and Building Maintenance and two specialists from the Athletics Department met in front of Nassau Hall to measure and line out the distinctive pattern of the chairs. The process had already been done on Canon Green. A few small groups of Reunion attendees and Princeton seniors, still awake from the night's Reunion celebrations, watch the preparations in cheerful anticipation.
By 7:00 a.m., crews begin to stage stacks of chairs on the flagstone path and soon after Building Services personnel start placing the crucial first rows and columns of chairs. By 10:00 a.m. most of the chairs that can be laid out are in place (some are in use at other events.) Everyone is watching and thinking about the weather. If severe weather threatens, Jadwin Gym must be prepared to host the ceremony and a vast quantity of chairs, lighting, video, and audio cable must be moved. It's all part of the plan.