Monumental Celebration brought more than 3,000 people to Union Station Saturday night, an increase from last year’s drop in attendance.
As of last week, ticket sales indicated that the event would be poorly attended for a second consecutive year. About 1,500 fewer people attended last year’s celebration, a traditional bash for graduating seniors, their families and friends, than in 2003.
“We sold several hundred tickets at the door, so numbers this year are higher than last year,” said James Hess, executive director of University Events.
Although the 2003 celebration brought a record-breaking 4,488 people to Union Station, Hess characterized that year as abnormal and said the University usually gets around 3,000 people to attend.
“That year was significantly higher than any other year,” he said. “This year’s numbers are more like what we historically get for the event.”
Saturday’s attendees enjoyed two live bands featuring jazz and party favorites, tables of hors d’oeuvres and desserts and a cash bar in two purple-and pink-tinted halls in Union Station’s first floor lobby. The black-tie optional event also featured caricature artists, professional photographers and magicians.
“It’s better than I expected,” graduate Evan Pinsonnault said. “I went to (GW’s) Inaugural Ball and the first thing I said when I walked in here was that this is 10 times better than that.”
Pinsonnault added that the gala had “just the right mix of music” and that he was pleased with the crowd.
“I’ve seen some people I haven’t seen since freshman year, which is refreshing,” he said.
In an attempt to increase ticket sales, the University lowered prices for this year’s gala, charging $55 for graduates and $65 for all other guests. Early-bird tickets were also offered in February for $49 for students and $55 for guests, an option not available for the 2004 celebration. Last year’s graduating seniors were charged $60, and guests paid $70 for tickets.
Hess said that while attendance did increase, he cannot fully attribute it to the cheaper ticket prices.
“We did sell more tickets, but the numbers didn’t go up so much that I can say it was because of the lowered prices,” he said.
Some attendees still felt that the event was too expensive, despite the decreased prices.
“There could be more bang for your buck,” said graduate Tara Colen, who bought her ticket at the door. “I was hesitant about buying a ticket because it was so expensive, but I wanted to see what was inside and my friends were coming.”
Others admitted the tickets were expensive but said attending the gala was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“You have to do it because you only graduate once,” graduate Taraneh Bastini said.
Hess said those graduates who did attend seemed to be enjoying the evening. He said he received mostly positive feedback and only one complaint.
“I heard one family left because they couldn’t find a table, which is unfortunate, but that is the only complaint I’ve received,” he said. “The vast majority of people seem to be enjoying themselves.”
The biggest gripe among attendees was the lack of an open bar. The cash bar sold beer for $3, wine for $4 and mixed drinks for $5.
“It’s sweet man,” McCabe said. “But they should have had an open bar.”