Students accelerate inaugural float construction

With only a few days before GW sends a float down Pennsylvania Avenue in the inaugural parade, student leaders are working around the clock to finish the project and stay on budget.

The cost of the actual float is roughly $58,000, but more than $30,000 has been spent on related costs, said Tim Miller, executive director of the Student Activities Center. Extra expenses include renting the trailers that the float will ride on in the parade on Jan. 20 and renting the tent currently located in Kogan Plaza.

The project began in the basement of the Academic Center, but the 48-foot float soon outgrew that location. The University is also paying for refreshments and space heaters for the students working from early in the morning to very late at night each day. In addition, administrators are including promotional materials that feature the float – like pictures and stickers that will be mailed to some prospective students and alumni – in their budget.

Hatchet Video: Float Preparation

The entrance to Kogan Plaza is roped off on 22nd Street and the tent protecting the float and its high-tech components, including flat-screen TVs and simulated stock ticker, are guarded by University Police Department officers each night from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m.

“It is the hope and desire to come in closer to the $85,000 range, but given the importance to finish the float in a short window and to ensure the safety and security of the float and the participants, the price is likely to creep up some from the $85,000 base,” said Assistant Vice President Helen Cannaday Saulny. The designer and student organizer for the float, Charlie Burgoyne, and Student Association President Vishal Aswani said the final budget and the list of who will ride the float are still being worked on.

The project is 85 percent completed and should be ready for its unveiling on Friday, Burgoyne said. Students and administrators will be welcome to visit the float during the open house on Friday from 3 to 4 p.m. or during the pep rally on Monday evening, beginning at 7:45 p.m. in Kogan Plaza.

Despite the high price tag, Aswani said he thinks the experience will outweigh the float’s costs.

“I think this project is a success in a thousand different ways you can look at it,” Aswani said. “For us to creep over the $85,000 mark does not make that much of a difference to us.”

The school originally set aside $80,000 to $150,000 to complete the float, but the team has a workable budget of about $85,000 and will have to specially request more funds if it goes over budget, Saulny said.

“I do not imagine we will be under the budget,” Miller said. “But we are doing some things that have never been done before.”

Student builders are unsure who will be riding and walking alongside the float on Inauguration Day. The final list of who will ride on the float is due to the Congressional Inauguration Committee by Friday evening. The SA will release the list with an explanation for why each person has been given a spot on the float, which Burgoyne hopes will satisfy students who have been critical of the process.

“This is going to be a big week for students to show their commitments,” Burgoyne said. “We are going to wait until the last minute to see everyone’s commitment. We would feel awful giving a spot to someone who did not deserve it.”

The float is creating considerable buzz among national press outlets. ABC News filmed a segment about the float on Wednesday night and Aswani and Burgoyne – with other team members – will be featured on CBS’s “The Early Show” on Monday. The Washington Post and the local Fox News Channel are expected send reporters and a television crew to the unveiling on Friday, Aswani said.

With nearly five months of work behind them, Aswani and Burgoyne excited for the 20th, a day they both think will go down in GW history.

“Fifty years from now we will be talking about this like we did it yesterday,” Aswani said.

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