Celebrate? 2002

Peter Gillette

Celebrate! 2002 seemed more or less a wash, with a smaller crowd than usual enduring the drizzle last Saturday.A number of factors caused the low turnout. Besides the dreary skies and unseasonably cool air, College Avenue construction kept away many townies, and mid-term reading period thinned out the potential LU contingent.

This year’s situation was similar to the Celebrate! two years ago, when similar weather conditions kept crowds away, leaving the 210 merchants and 30 food vendors high and dry.

“The added impact of the wet weather—although it never started soaking—kept a lot of people away,” said LU Director of Campus Activities Paul Shrode. He added that the threat of more serious weather thankfully never came to fruition but loomed over much of the day.

Construction also set the campus apart geographically from the community in a way that may have led community members to think that the campus was inaccessible.

“Personally, I don’t think parking was affected dramatically,” Shrode said, explaining that spots displaced by College Ave. construction would not have been available anyway, “but the perception still existed in the community.”

Although vendors expecting crowds around 20,000 may have taken a bath, so to speak, the University met its financial goals through sponsorship and vendor fees.

“From the University’s standpoint, it was still financially successful. The groups that were hurt the most were the vendors and student groups,” Shrode said.

LU budgets $25,000 from the Campus Activities fund for Celebrate!, the festival that came about following the 1973 Fox Valley Renaissance Faire. Booth fees bring in around $10,000.

Those that did come were entertained by music throughout the day, including LU group Sambistas and the student hip-hop group Bad News Jones. The Ormsby stage featured family-oriented entertainment, the Con stage focused mostly on jazz, the Wriston stage had hip-hop and DJs, and the Plantz stage featured rock bands.

The rain started falling more steadily around 1 p.m., just when Lawrence Republican Jay Ellsmore began his hour in the dunk tank next to Main Hall. Incidentally, the water was much warmer than the air, which occasionally dipped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit—not to mention the 30 miles per hour winds.

“When people came up to throw, I prayed that they’d throw each ball quickly, so I wouldn’t have to spend so much time out of the water,” Ellsmore said, being serious.

“It was just extremely windy, and raining, and just cold,” he added.

After leaving the dunk tank, Ellsmore made a beeline for his room and warm clothes with long sleeves.

A returning festival-goer, a middle-aged man who preferred not to give a name, joked about the lack of alcohol at the event—which has been dry for two years—and mentioned that if beer were served, “maybe it wouldn’t feel so cold out here…Or maybe I just wouldn’t care so much about it.”

The crowd shrunk so much by 3 p.m. that several vendors and acts began leaving, and the event essentially ended. Rather than play in the rain for no audience at the Shattuck Hall stage, singer Janet Macklin canceled.

She was to be followed by Chicago saxophonist Jim Gallioretto, who brought a first-tier jazz quartet up for the occasion. He moved his concert into Harper Hall and played a heated set for a crowd of less than a dozen LU students and a satisfied family of four.