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Wave Goodbye, by the Numbers

May 31, 2000

Suzanne Johnson

Next year, the party planners might tinker with the starting times by a half-hour or so. They might put out a few more chairs. They might anticipate the excessive sugar-cravings of their guests and bring a few more pastries.

But Wave Goodbye, the pre-commencement Friday night party held on the Gibson quad for the Class of 2000 and a few thousand of their closest family and friends, pretty much came off without a hitch. Any changes in the future--and there will be a future for this new celebration that promises to become a Tulane tradition--will be minor ones.

As Deborah L. Grant, assistant vice president of university communications and head of the planning committee noted, "It went just swimmingly."
 
The seeds of the party idea were planted by Tulane College Dean Anthony Cummings, who in discussions following 1999s first unified commencement, noted that it would be nice if Tulane could hold a party for degree candidates and their families, Grant said. The party replaces the traditional reception for graduates held at the president's home.

In any large event--particularly one involving thousands of guests, dinner and live music--the numbers pile up. Wave Goodbye was no exception. Thus, a look at the party by the numbers:

5,000  The average attendance expected for the Wave Goodbye party. "Early in the planning, I e-mailed the graduating seniors asking how many thought they would be coming, and how many people they'd be bringing with them," Grant said. The results of that query, plus an upward estimate to cover non-respondents, gave planners a rough estimate of how many guests to expect, though Grant notes that there was really no way of knowing how to forecast attendance.

6,000-7,000  Estimated actual attendance, based on rough head counts and the amount of food consumed.

40-50  The number of names Grant estimates the planning committee came up with before settling on Wave Goodbye, proposed by committee member and Tulane registrar Earl Retif. "We had come up with some really horrible names," Grant said.

8  Number of months taken to plan the event. Planning by a 14-member committee headed by Grant with the expert help of event coordinator Vicki Herman Amann, began last October, shortly after President Scott Cowen's Sept. 24 inauguration.

6 Number of trees on the Gibson Quad fitted with new lights, which will be retained as permanent campus lighting.

2,000  The number of luminaria set out on the walkways of the quad leading to where the stage was set up on the St. Charles Avenue side of Hebert Hall. This is also the number of luminaria taken away after the idea was nixed by campus safety officials mindful of the area's current drought conditions.

5 and 2 The number of days taken to set up for the party, and to clean up afterward, respectively.

1,500  Number of chairs set up on the quad, along with 207 tables, Amann said. Some veteran festival-goers came with their own portable chairs, and many moved chairs closer to the stage after the meal to better hear the entertainers.

30-by-40  Number of feet making up the dimensions of the stage set up for musical guests Kermit Ruffins and Dr. John. Amann said the stage, which dwarfed Hebert Hall in the background, was a pop-up concert stage, which was hauled in by a semi, detached and automatically set up.

105 The number of catering staff required to cook for and serve the masses. Lines for the freshly fried seafood were longest, though there ended up being plenty for everyone.

17,000  Number of desserts served. The crowd had quite a sweet tooth, Amann noted dessert was the only type of food that ran short. Dessert-mania ran so fierce that Amann had to retrieve a tray belonging to the caterer from one guest who was heading off with an entire selection of sweets.

1,200  Bottles of champagne consumed in a toast to the degree candidates made by President Scott Cowen.

10,000  Pounds of ice needed to chill the soft drinks and water being served. Also, 20,000 plates were used.

900 Pounds of jambalaya eaten by the hungry hordes, Amann said. She noted other food figures: 650 pounds of crawfish, 600 pounds of shrimp, 80 gallons of oysters and 650 pounds of red beans and rice.

1 and Counting Number of times the Wave Goodbye party has been held. The 2001 planning committee hasn't yet been formed but Amann summed up the necessary ingredients: "It involves a lot of time, planning, patience and sanity."

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