Following months of planning and weeks of arduous construction, GW’s inaugural float finally made its appearance on the national stage as it glided down Pennsylvania Avenue Tuesday afternoon.
Pulled by a rented trolley, the float stood atop two flatbed trailers, with walls separating the various depictions of the different GW schools. Features included a Baja car representing engineering, a television and camera for media and public affairs, a Smartboard for the School of Education, a judge for the Law School and a stock ticker for the business school, among other mini-exhibits.
As it passed by the reviewing stand at about 5:40 p.m., President Barack Obama saluted University mascot George, who was standing on a platform atop the first trailer.
Those who caught a glimpse of the float during Monday night’s pep rally before it left campus noticed a major difference in the its features the next day. The giant 8-foot balloon globe, representing the Elliott School of International Affairs, was destroyed prior to the float’s debut.
“We had the float set up in a corridor and the wind channeled through it, then we heard this huge rip. The whole bottom of the balloon just shredded,” said float designer Charlie Burgoyne. “In the end we were able to put up an American flag as a back-up. We think it worked out pretty well.”
“Compared to the other floats in the parade, I thought it was well done,” said Kelsey Haas, a freshman who attended the parade. “The part that stuck out to me the most was George Washington, the mascot. He was waving.”
Haas said she was disappointed to see the globe missing from the float.
“I was at the pep rally the night before and the globe was the thing that stuck out to me the most, so I was disappointed it wasn’t in the actual parade,” she said.
Despite temperatures in the low 20s, parade delays and an accident that eliminated a major component of the float, student participants said riding on the float was a thrill they would remember for the rest of their lives. Burgoyne said he was watching the crowd’s reactions as the float passed by.
“The media and public affairs section was a huge success,” Burgoyne said. “When people saw themselves on our TV screen there was a lot of screaming and yelling.”
Incoming freshman Molly Hogin had a unique perspective on the float’s big day. Hogin won an essay contest for early decision freshmen and GW flew her to D.C. to be a part of the parade festivities and ride on the school’s float.
“I did a lot of work for the Obama campaign and it was very meaningful for me to be here,” Hogin said. “It was really cool to see Obama and Joe Biden, whose smiles were just radiant.”
Four months of work by Burgoyne, SA President Vishal Aswani, Student Activities Center Executive Director Tim Miller and others were brought to a close in the early morning hours of Inauguration Day, when eight students brought the final float to its loading station on C Street. At around 7 a.m., all remaining students who were riding on the float met at Ivory Tower to make their way to the parade.
At final count, about 49 GW students were able to spend their day riding down Pennsylvania Avenue – including three students who had problems with their background checks earlier in the week.
Lindsay Gordon contributed to this report.