Top of the Morning, May 17, 2014
Laura Wilhelm-Barr knew this year's graduation ceremony was different when she took a call from a parent wanting to know where he could park his RV for tailgating purposes.
"They were thinking in terms of a football game," Wilhelm-Barr said. "I said 'Sure, I guess you can set up a tailgate if you want to.' "
With UI commencement outside at Memorial Stadium for the first time in more than 50 years, Wilhelm-Barr — the director of special events for the chancellor's office — has plenty to worry about. Like the weather.
"I can't tell you how many forecasts I've looked at," she said Friday. "The last three days it rained. (Saturday) is supposed to be nice. So it's good."
Just in case, spectators will be allowed to bring umbrellas into the stadium (a no-no for football games). Graduates and faculty get ponchos as not to mess with sightlines of a crowd estimated at 15,000. If it stays dry, the ponchos will be saved for the Class of 2015 which also will do the stadium thing. Here's what else we know:
— About 4,000 folding chairs sit atop a protective covering on Zuppke Field, providing students comfort and keeping the football coach from going berserk.
— The suites won't be in use, nor will the pressbox.
— The mammoth videoboard will be functioning.
— Gates open at 8 a.m.
— Even with a B-17 in town, there will be no stadium flyover, which sometimes takes place before football games.
"You're going to know you're in Memorial Stadium," said Wilhelm-Barr, a regular at Illini football games. "It still has that stadium feel but we've given it a little bit of an academic flair."
Here's today's forecast courtesy meteorologist Greg Soulje:
"Despite the mid-May calendar date, it will remain jacket and sweater weather as temperatures will only moderate to more typical early April levels (still an improvement from the recent March-like chill) and climb through the 50s during the mid- to late-morning to afternoon highs in the lower 60s. The breeze will be light (5 to 10 mph)."