More than 30,000 visitors are expected in Lawrence this weekend for Kansas University's 129th annual commencement ceremony.
Receptions and ceremonies honoring graduates begin today before Sunday afternoon's commencement.
"KU has a rather unique commencement," KU spokesman Todd Cohen said. "It shows off the campus. It's a very fun, celebratory event. There isn't a long speech. There is a long procession, but it's usually one that's full of excitement and fun costumes. Then there's the solemn section when we honor the graduates and their futures."
Students will begin lining up at 2 p.m. Sunday along Jayhawk Boulevard, and the procession down Campanile Hill to Memorial Stadium begins at 2:30 p.m. The ceremony which is expected to last 45 minutes begins at 3:30 p.m.
About 4,000 graduates are expected to participate. This year's total graduating class is about 5,400, including 2,100 who received degrees last summer and fall. Almost 5,800 students graduated from KU in 2000.
Judy Billings, director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, called this weekend a "million-dollar weekend," based on the amount of money that will be spent in Lawrence.
And unless you already have reservations, you probably won't be able to find a room.
"Typically hotels are full," she said. "They have waiting lists. It fills up the region as well."
For the first time this year, KU will show a video presentation about the university on the stadium's giant video screen beginning at 1:30 p.m. Students will be shown on the video screen during the ceremony for the second year.
"Instead of just looking at a long black line of people, they can see pictures of students crying and hugging each other," Cohen said. "It made the event more enjoyable last year."
The event will be simulcast on KUJH, Sunflower Cablevision channel 66. It also will be shown on a big-screen TV in Woodruff Auditorium, on the fifth floor of the Kansas Union, for people whose physical conditions prevent them from viewing the event at Memorial Stadium.
The National Weather Service says there's a chance for thunderstorms Sunday, with highs in the 70s. If it is raining in the early afternoon, the ceremony will be postponed until 4:30 p.m. If it's still raining then, the ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. If it is raining at 6 p.m., graduation will be at 9 a.m. Monday.
Announcements about the weather will be made through the KU Information Center (864-3506), radio stations KANU 91.5 FM, KLZR 105.9 FM, KJHK 90.7 FM, WIBW 580 AM, WDAF 610 AM and KLWN 1320 AM. Updates also will be available on Sunflower Cablevision Channel 6.
Free parking will be available on campus. A shuttle bus will stop at Memorial Stadium, Kansas Union, Jayhawk Boulevard, Murphy Hall, the south parking facility, Burge Union, Daisy Hill and the Lied Center.
Graduates and their families can gather on the lawn of Chancellor Robert Hemenway's house from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday for lunch. The university has ordered 2,000 box lunches for the event.
Three KU graduates will receive Distinguished Service Citations tonight at the All-University Supper, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Adams Alumni Center. Former State Sen. Dick Bond, H&R; Block founder Henry Bloch and Pennsylvania Institute of Technology founder Walter Garrison will receive the honor.