The music was playing. The drinks were flowing. The cameras were flashing. But for much of Saturday evening, attendees at GW’s annual Monumental Celebration Saturday night just wanted a place to sit.
Union Station was the site for the event, as almost 4,500 GW students, family members and University guests attended the annual Commencement Weekend gala. Live music from bands Odyssey and King James and the Serfs of Swing, in addition to caricature artists, balloon artists and fortune tellers, provided entertainment for the evening.
“It’s way too overcrowded, but the food is good,” graduate Hannah Eldredge said. “And I am seeing people I haven’t seen for a few years.”
Director of the Office of University Events Jessica Carlson said the University sold 4,488 tickets at $50 apiece, and she was “extremely surprised” by the number. Last year the University sold 3,300 tickets.
Georgetown University held a similar event Friday night for about 6,000 people.
To accommodate increased ticket sales, the University rented the lower food court level of Union Station and renamed it the River Horse Lounge. While the space did not open until 10 p.m., the area offered additional seating, as well as a DJ, tables of appetizers and desserts and three bars.
University administrators, as well as inflatable mascots of Big George and the University Hippo mingled among guests.
“I think people are having a great time,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services. “From an administrator’s standpoint I am able to say ‘hello’ to people I would not have been able to talk to otherwise.”
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was also in attendance, and equally impressed.
“It’s tremendous. It’s monumental,” Trachtenberg said.
He said adding strippers to the evening’s festivities would be the only way to top this year’s gala.
Graduates said the evening gave them an opportunity to reminisce and reflect on their four years at GW.
“Tonight’s a great event because it’s the only time in four years of school when every single person you’ve had in a class is in one room together,” said graduate Brian Krause, who will be attending law school at Rutgers University in the fall. “You get to relive four years of GW memories in one night.”
Several family members were also sentimental.
Attendee Samantha O’Neil said she came to Washington this weekend to see her older sister, Tamara, graduate.
“I’ve seen her grow for these entire four years, and to see her graduate signifies all her hard work and dedication, not just in college but in life,” she said. “I’m really proud of her.”
Madame Zandra, a psychic, was on hand throughout the evening. She said she read several good fortunes in the palms of those graduating.
“I’ve been seeing people who try a lot of different jobs, and they are being very successful,” she said. “As far as romance I see a lot of deep and intense relationships. Most of the people I see will be doing well in life.”
While Madame Zandra said she saw passion and professional success in the seniors’ futures, attendees said they did not have as much luck when it came to buying alcoholic drinks for the night, which were not included in the ticket price.
Seniors Ethan Hughes and Alison Scimeca said paying high prices for drinks on top of $50 tickets was “ridiculous.” Hughes said it is a shame that the seniors had to “put in more money after already giving so much.”
Despite complaints concerning drinks, the countless bars were buzzing throughout the night. Although guests said that cheaper drink prices and shorter lines would be an improvement, waiting did not prevent anyone from partaking in the graduation revelry.
“My parents aren’t here so I’m hammered!” a senior, who was enjoying a night with friends, shouted across the room.
Administrators said they hope to offer a larger block of tickets for next year.
“If there (are) more people here next year we’ll do fine,” Trachtenberg said. “We’ll take as much space as we can get.”