A record crowd of 83,000 came out to the fifth annual Rutgers Day to savor the finest the state university has to offer.
Spectators lined College Avenue for the first Rutgers Day Parade to watch members of the Rutgers Marching Band, the ROTC Color Guard, dance team and cheerleaders, as well as other student organizations, make their way from Brower Commons to Voorhees Mall.
Those who attended, like 1998 alumna Stephanie Cooper, said this year’s addition of the parade made Rutgers Day even more enjoyable.
“This was a fabulous day – a great day to showcase Rutgers pride,” said Linda Bassett, who directs Rutgers Day.
Amid sunny skies and warm temperatures, visitors took part in more than 500 programs and activities sponsored by schools, departments, institutes, centers and student organizations, on Rutgers campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway.
At the New Jersey Folk Festival – one of the many events that make up Rutgers Day – the event was dedicated to celebrating the culture and traditions of the people of Garifuna, a Central American community that has survived wars, exile and deprivation and is still flourishing.
Richard L. Edwards, Rutgers executive vice president for academic affairs, extended greetings from the university to Camillo Gonsalves, permanent representative to the United Nations for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The ambassador attended the festival on behalf of the Garifuna and shared their story of survival.
“I believe this is due in great part to their absolute refusal to surrender against incredible odds,” Gonsalves said.
St. Vincent is the ancestral homeland of the Garifuna people, who today are found largely in Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. A large Garifuna diaspora also exists in New York and New Jersey, the ambassador said.
This Rutgers Day was also dedicated to a story of survival closer to home – families still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
The Rutgers Oral History Archives staff interviewed Sandy survivors. A map of New Jersey at their table featured nearly 100 brightly colored pins – stretching from Millville to Midland Park – representing everyone who stopped by today.
Visitors to the booth were able to get online and read stories recorded by their hometown neighbors, said Shaun Illingworth, who directs the archives. “Rutgers Day is a great opportunity to connect with the people we serve,” he said.
The day ended with more than 21,000 fans at High Point Solutions Stadium for the Scarlet-White spring football game, which raised money for Sandy victims. Rutgers players’ jerseys featured the names of towns across New Jersey affected by the hurricane.
In the game’s final five minutes middle school students from Sandy-affected communities ran onto the field and played flag football in front of the cheering crowd.