Rutgers Day 2018 Attracts a Record Crowd

Rutgers Day 2018 Attracts a Record Crowd

On the 10-year anniversary nearly 106,000 visitors learn what New Jersey’s largest public research university offers

Rutgers Day crowd shot
An estimated 106,000 people came to New Brunswick, Newark and Camden to celebrate all things Rutgers.
Photo: Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

The 10th annual Rutgers Day was celebrated under sunny skies by an estimated 106,000 people – providing visitors the opportunity to learn about New Jersey’s largest public research university.

This popular spring event, which began at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in 2009, is also now held  at Rutgers University-Newark and Rutgers University-Camden, giving those who spent the day a snapshot view of the research, service and education offered at the state’s largest university.

Rebecca Hand, a 2005 graduate, towed her napping 1-year-old in a wagon down College Avenue as her husband, Chaim Cohen, also a 2005 Rutgers alumnus, trailed behind with their 4-year-old son. The couple has participated in Rutgers Day since its inception, alternating campuses each year. College Avenue has changed considerably in the two years since the Highland Park residents have taken in the festivities in New Brunswick, she said.

"It's nice to see the growth and change," Hand said as she watched the alumni parade. "The old buildings are coming down and new pretty ones are going up. It means the university is thriving."

The annual show-and-tell, which coincides with Alumni Weekend, offered festivalgoers more than 700 free performances, demonstrations and interactive activities. Those who attended the daylong gathering at any one of the three sites could choose from a bevy of activities – from science, technology and sports to crafts and animals to history, English, theology, theater arts and politics.

There were belly dancing, hip-hop, virtual reality and drone demonstrations.  And for those who wanted to do it themselves, they had the opportunity to perform surgery on a Jell-O brain; tie dye shirts, pet animals, climb a famous Rutgers red oak and snap photos of their children dressed as future Rutgers graduates.

In New Brunswick, the kickoff began on College Avenue with a parade led by the sword-wielding Scarlet Knight mascot followed by students and alumni, including 1943 graduate Frederick Detrick Jr. and his wife,Virginia Detrick, a 1945 alumna of New Jersey College for Women, now Douglass Residential College. From their perch on a motorized golf cart, the pair proudly counted off the number of children and grandchildren – nine in all – who earned degrees from their alma mater.

"We obviously love Rutgers!" said Frederick Detrick Jr. as hundreds of fellow Rutgers enthusiasts paraded through Voorhees Mall while the marching band played the “Rutgers Fight Song.”

Long lines already had formed at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Plant Sale before the official 10 a.m. Rutgers Day start time. Early birds snatched up signature varieties developed at Rutgers, including the Scarlet strawberry, Rutgers 250 tomato, pumpkin habanero and the new Rutgers Scarlet Fire dogwood.

Rutgers Day crafts
A young Rutgers Day participant enjoys one of the many craft tables. 
Photo: Nick Romanenko
“I never thought I would be the person who had to get to the plant sale early, but here I am,’’ said Kim Weisner, a 1995 Rutgers graduate who had her hands full with a box of heirloom tomato plants.

“It’s a great day outside. It’s family bonding time and it’s educational,’’ said Weisner, of South Brunswick, who received grooming tips and learned that she should be planting her tomato seedlings deeper in the ground. “This is tradition,’’ she said. “I miss the school. It was a great experience.’’

At Rutgers-Newark there was an activity for everyone, from Legos, face painting, raffles and performances at Norman Samuels Plaza to panel discussions, cosplay, 3-D and T-shirt printing. The first-ever Newark Culture Con at Express Newark on Halsey Street was a popular stop.

“I’m going to be coming to school here, so I’m excited to visit,” said Kendra Valencia of Clifton, who toured the Rutgers-Newark booths with friends.

With the sounds of the Rutgers-Camden Beatlemaniacs in the background, visitors to the campus participated in a rock/paper/scissors tournament, learned about probability and statistics, dressed up like a judge at the Rutgers Law School booth and watched the Sikh Student Association’s turban-tying demonstration.

Sabrina Velasquez of Camden, a 2014 Rutgers-New Brunswick graduate, brought her 6- and 7-year-old nieces, who had their faces painted with butterfly designs.

“I thought it would be nice to bring them to Rutgers Day because there’s a lot going on,” said Velasquez, who hopes the girls will consider attending Rutgers-Camden when the times comes.

History, archaeology and forensic science buffs learned about Rutgers' involvement in the excavation of historic human remains discovered at a Philadelphia construction site. Visitors to the booth had a chance to view and handle some of the artifacts recovered from the site, which had been the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia's cemetery in the 1700s and 1800s.

Meanwhile at the 44th New Jersey Folk Festival on Rutgers-New Brunswick’s Cook-Douglass campus, Dana Fuchs, the student festival manager, was busy checking in performers and answering parking questions. As the music started, the sun came out and the crowds began arriving.

This year Rutgers' New Jersey Folk Festival, the largest student-run event of its kind in the country, highlighted the heritage of the state’s indigenous tribes including the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, the Powhatan Renape Nation and the Ramapough Lunaape Nation. The theme was selected as a result of the Scarlet and Black project, which explored Rutgers' ties to slavery and the displacement of Native Americans.

Although the morning was hectic, capping off months of work, Fuchs, a Rutgers-New Brunswick senior planning and public policy major from Hillsborough, was enjoying the scene.

“It’s really cool to see it all come together,’’ said Fuchs. “I was here at 5 a.m. It’s a long day and yesterday was a long day and so was the day before that. But I wouldn't trade festival day in for any other time. It’s awesome to see everyone enjoying themselves.’’

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