Yet while crews begin actual construction of the tents, stages and gates in late April, preliminary preparations for Reunions begin even earlier. According to Grounds Operational Manager Albert Pearson, Grounds and Building Maintenance begins ordering materials in March. “As soon as the weather permits we overseed the turf, refresh the mulch around shrubs and trees and replace dying plants,” Pearson explained. Much of the landscaping work is also part of Grounds and Building’s routine campus maintenance.
Pearson said that the grounds crew consists of 40 employees responsible for maintaining and monitoring 16 Reunions sites across campus.
Jody Conover has experienced four Reunions as part of the electric shop crew, starting at 7 a.m. each weekday and sometimes on weekends.
“It’s a lot of prep,” Conover said. “We deal with wiring tents, site lighting on buildings and supplying power and lighting.” Despite the hours he has logged in preparing for the event, Conover has never seen the tents at night; during Reunions, his shift ends at 3:30 p.m.
Unlike Conover, senior maintenance technician Harry Van Selous has had many chances to observe the nighttime activities in his 26 years on the grounds crew. A team from the grounds crew is on standby each night in case of electric and structural malfunctions. “We get a chance to walk around and listen to the music,” Van Selous said.
Van Selous said he felt the most exciting part of Reunions was the opportunity to see the “different people that come back every year.” He treats Reunions and Commencement as the same job and has seen numerous high-profile Class Day speakers, such as former president Bill Clinton in 2006 and actress Brooke Shields ’87 last year.
“There just seems always to be a thunderstorm,” Van Selous said. With the possibility of lightning and high winds, the tents and electricity must be closely monitored. However, Van Selous said he has not encountered a major crisis in his years on grounds crew.
While Conover has yet to see Reunions in full swing, he has an idea of the size of the celebrations. For him, the most memorable impression of the festivities was during his first year on the job, watching trucks unload the supply of beer for the weekend.
“I never thought that Princeton University would have that many beer trucks,” Conover said.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/06/02/31013/