Is there a weekend out there that can rival the kind of alumni and school support the Head of The Charles garners?
I would venture to say no.
Never have I seen more articles of school clothing than I did this past weekend. The same can be said for the men and women who are 6’1″ and taller with less than 5% body fat, but I imagine that there are weird conventions where this is also common place. School pride was of the utmost importance this weekend and it came from every corner of the globe. At one point I thought I was on the campus at University of Wisconsin as I found myself in the midst of what appeared to be the crew team, plus the football team, plus everyone’s parents on the bank of the Charles.
For someone who prides themselves on loving alumni as I do, this was the mecca.
Also, does it get any better than a venue called “Alumni Village”?! This tent was filled with alumni drinking beer, eating hot dogs and watching their school come around the river’s corner. The tent was so popular that it was a good 40 minute wait when I was there. No event brings together so many institutions. Combine this with the competition over a two day span and you have alumni heaven.
As a proud alum of Andover and Wesleyan, I found myself talking to students from each school who were there rowing. It gave me a great reason to reach out and check in on my beloved schools from those I care to hear from. These were rewarding interactions and I saw similar alumni eager to congratulate and correspond with those who are living in our shoes.
This got me thinking about potential places where an alumni affinity could be a huge draw and yet I do not think educational institutions are necessarily creating a presence.
1. SXSW- Austin Texas: We went last year and in one day I bumped into eight Andover alums randomly. This is a technology, film, music festival. Where else are you going to cover all those interest groups. There is a ton of noise here but I think that schools should absolutely be having alumni gatherings here. It may even give alumni who are on the fence about attending that last little push. Definitely my #1 choice. A Bloody Mary Bar in the AM or heavy apps and bar around 4:30pm would be perfect.
2. New York or Boston Marathon: The Head of the Charles brings in 200,000 extra people to Boston each year. The Boston Marathon attracts 500,000. Space is coveted along the race route so why not get a big old tent, pitch it on Commonwealth 6am and invite all your alumni to come watch? Absolutely no brainer and a great way to spend a Monday.
3. Mardi Gras- New Orleans: I do not need to explain this. I am going to do everything in my power to have a float in the parade for my schools. How cool would that be? Seriously though, everyone is there, have a get together so that alumni can connect!
4. Lollapalooza- Chicago Illinois: This music festival draws people from all over the world and has eclectic enough Artists to warrant various ages of festival goers. While the park is booked and crazy, I think hosting an alumni breakfast before a day on the shores of Lake Michigan would be great.
5. Superbowl and Final Four weekends: I think this can be a little bit of a stretch but these are universal weekends where people flock to host cities to enjoy the festivities regardless of attending said event. Pride is on the line here so tapping into that alumni or regional affiliation could really work.
Honorable mention – Olympics and World Cup: Country pride is much more on people’s minds but we had an Andover “reunion” as a confluence of people from the school were in South Africa and it was amazing. School pride in a foreign country is always at rabid levels.
None of these compete with the Head of the Charles but I for one would love more weekends when walking around in a school hoodie was the norm and everyone stopped to say hi and ask about your affiliation!