Planning in quasquicentennial proportions

As event coordinators we understand planning, but what’s that five-syllable term succeeding it? A quasquicentennial refers to a 125th anniversary celebration, a term new to me prior to coming to Georgia Tech and I imagine to those in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering (ME), prior to their successful completion of their celebration this May. As ME is one of the first of many to celebrate this momentous milestone, I thought it would be interesting to understand how their team developed the year of activities. I recently met with Christine Esposito, event coordinator II and fellow ECN member, to discuss ME125 and lessons learned as they enter their 126th year (for which, unfortunately, there is no extravagant moniker).

Planning for the birthday party of the century

By perusing their comprehensive and engaging website, I knew this celebration had been a few years in the making. Esposito stated ideas had already formed by the time she was hired in 2012, and continued to develop through ME’s celebration year – September 20, 2013, through May 1, 2014. The goals of ME125 were twofold; engage current constituencies (including faculty, staff, alumni, and students) in the celebration and raise donor dollars to ensure continued success for the next 125 years. While they are currently assessing their monetary success, the planning committee consisting of almost a dozen administrators feels the ME community at large has responded positively and developed a stronger bond as a result of the celebration. 

How do you celebrate 125 years?

At the time, there were no other examples on campus to follow as to how to plan a quasquicentennial celebration, so the planning committee initially focused on their normal event calendar. They highlighted routine annual events to include in the year-long celebration, identifying areas in which they could be augmented or enhanced. They then developed two bookend events to celebrate the commencement and culmination of the academic year. Promotional items were purchased to distribute to attendees, and collateral pieces reinforced the ME125 brand throughout the celebration. An environmental graphic that spanned the length of the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering building served as a constant reminder to pedestrians of the School’s accomplishments throughout the years. Organizers continually sought to develop opportunities that were a little bit different from past events their stakeholders may have attended. 

ME125 lessons learned

We know planning one event can be an arduous task, so imagine 14 consecutive, unique, yet individualized events in a one-year period. To assist us all as we venture into our own anniversary years, Esposito encourages you to:

  • Develop your budget early and be smart with your spending – if it won’t enhance your event or create a wow factor, why do it?
  • Conversely, expect line items to increase from your initial calculations – once the event gets rolling, there will always be additional ideas that need funding.
  • Plan for change – what you initially discuss will change, so be prepared to be flexible.
  • Look for areas to be creative.
  • Ask for and truly appreciate your volunteers – it really does take a village to create successful events.
  • It’s never too early to begin planning – planning yesterday is ideal.
  • Branding is huge – create a look and feel for your event and use it consistently throughout the anniversary period.
  • Use vendors you know and trust.
  • Did we mention be flexible?

Planning your anniversary event?