Last weekend, many people noted what appeared to be reduced attendance at this year’s Celebrate! activities. Paul Shrode, Associate Dean of Students for Activities, noted that this was not the case. Shrode told The Lawrentian that there was an estimated increase in attendance of nearly 10,000 people from 10,000-15,000 during both the 1999 and 2000 celebrations to nearly 25,000 during the 2001 activities. (Both of these remain significantly less than the average of 40,000 people who attended before the event became alcohol free in 1999.)
What students may have noticed was that this year there was a decrease in the number of vendors selling at the event. The number of vendors during the 1998 festivities, when alcohol was still sold, was approximately 250. In successive years the numbers have gone done to around 220 and 210 in 1999 and 2000, respectively. This year the number of vendors selling hit a new low at around 160. The number of food sellers also dropped significantly this year to 20 booths. Averages in the past ranged from 30-35.
Shrode conjectured that the likely reason for the decrease in vendors this year is due to disappointing sales in previous years. With the ban on alcohol, vendors are now realizing that the profits are not as high as they once were. This may have caused many vendors to not to attend this year. Also, weather the past several years was not ideal, which led to poorer sales in those years. Fearing inclement weather this year may also have deterred vendors. Regardless of the specific reason, Shrode does not consider the decline to be a problem or at all indicative of a decline in the popularity of Celebrate!. Though some may have thought the ban on alcohol signaled the demise of Celebrate!, Shrode feels it is doing well and will continue to do so.
The decision to ban alcohol has been a controversial one, but it is one that Shrode believes improved Celebrate! greatly. Previously, beer sales had been responsible for much of the revenue that funded the event. With their absence, the university must spend more and also seek corporate sponsors from the community. This year, Lawrence paid about 35 percent of the costs of Celebrate!.
Shrode feels that this disadvantage does not outweigh the benefits of having an alcohol free event. He feels more families with children are participating in the event and fewer 18 to 25 year olds are attending.
Also, more student groups such as Lawrence International and the AIDS Awareness Group are donating their time to making the event a success. He feels this is largely attributable to the alcohol ban. Finally, relations with the city are better since alcohol is gone. Permits were becoming more difficult to attain because of underage drinking concerns of the city. Shrode points to these results as proof that a wise decision was made in disallowing alcohol. No one is considering ever allowing alcohol at Celebrate! again.
Another significant change for the 2001 festival was the inclusion of a nationally recognized band, The Blessid Union of Souls. Shrode thinks this was yet another wise decision on the part of LUCC because it brought in people from a greater distance and gained recognition for the event.
The time of day the band played, 4 p.m., also prompted people to stay later than they typically do and eat dinner at the event. Shrode believes the band was a crowd-pleaser with pleasant music that many different age groups could enjoy, including Lawrence students. He thinks they were lucky to book such a band and that event coordinators will seek similar acts in the future whenever possible. He also thinks the timing during reading period allowed many students to enjoy the festivities who otherwise may have been unable to do so. Celebrate will be during reading period again next year.
Overall, Shrode feels confident in the excellent performance of Celebrate and has no concerns that it will be less successful in the future.