About 2,000 less people went to the University’s annual Monumental celebration this year, a dramatic attendance decline that will lead officials to consider ways to make the event more attractive to students and their families.
Approximately 2,300 people attended Saturday night’s black-tie optional event in Union Station, which featured caricature artists, fortune-tellers and live music from a DJ and swing band. At last year’s celebration, a record-breaking crowd of 4,488 people packed Union Station’s expansive first floor lobby and lower level food court.
James Hess, executive director of University Events, said the decline was “not something we wanted to see happen…sales are down.” He added that administrators “need to evaluate the event” to draw more students and their families.
In a Hatchet interview last week, Hess said officials would not likely be moving the celebration from Union Station.
Hess attributed the decline in sales to several factors, including a $10 price increase that made tickets $60 for seniors and $70 for non-graduates.
He said the elimination of an “early bird” ticket program the University sponsored last year may also have contributed to a decline in ticket sales. The program allowed people to purchase tickets several months in advance at a reduced price.
Hess said officials may look at bringing the program back if they think it will increase sales. The program, however, leads to a large loss of revenue for the University, Hess said.
Even without the early bird program, GW loses money by putting on the pricey affair, said Hess, who was unsure how much money the University lost this year. Last year, GW lost $50,000 putting on the event.
Despite the decline in attendance, Hess said he was optimistic that people had fun at the celebration.
“People that were there really enjoyed themselves, that’s always good to see,” said Hess.
Less people at the event allowed for more space to move around in Union Station, Hess said. Last year, the lower level of Union Station was not open to attendees until 10:30 p.m. This year, however, the lower level was open when the event began at 9 p.m.
Alcoholic drinks, ranging in price from $3 to $6, could be purchased at the gala at a number of cash bars throughout the station.
Many in attendance were unhappy with the expensive ticket and drink prices.
“(Monumental) is obviously overpriced,” graduating senior Andrew Bagley said. “The ticket price is the lamest thing I’ve seen in my life.”
“It’s really expensive,” graduating senior Emily Lefholz said. “The majority of my friends couldn’t afford it.”
Other students felt that the $70 ticket price was acceptable.
“It’s a little high, but it’s worth it,” said graduating senior Larry Siedlick who attended the event with his family.
Debbie Brown, who also came at her son’s invitation, felt her money was well spent.
“(Monumental) couldn’t be at a better place,” Brown said. “I didn’t mind spending the money for a good thing.”
Some students said they event was especially meaningful because it gave them the opportunity to celebrate with their families.
“The tickets were expensive,” said graduating senior Alessandra Mediago, “but worth it to be with friends and family.”
-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.