This post is a student contribution from Claudia Moser’s class ARCH 1764: 25 Things! 250 Years of Brown’s Material Past

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Tonight marked the start of a year of celebrations for the 250th anniversary of Brown University. The main green – where generations of late students have run across to class, where hundreds of Blue Room muffins have been eaten, where thousands of students have danced during Spring Weekend – was filled with current students, alumni and their families, and RI families, all eager for the festivities to begin.

On the stage sat a 600 pound, 5 feet by 3 feet, and just under 3 feet high cake meant to serve more than 1,000 people. To say the least, the cake was impressing. Detailed to the last 100th  window, the cake resembled Brown’s first building, University Hall, and the famous Van Wickle gates. An article by the Providence Journal claimed it to be “one of the largest cakes that has ever been made,” amounting to over 200 man-hours to put it together.[1] The cake appeared almost unreal, like a plastic replica of University Hall. I felt as if I could almost see or imagine myself as a miniature student walking through the gates up to University Hall! After several short speeches about the history and future of Brown, including one from the adorable Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson who started the night with a prayer exactly 250 words in length, the cake was finally cut by President Christina Paxson.

A couple minutes after the cutting of the cake, University Hall became illuminated with fireworks. Matching the tune of Brown’s fight song, “Ever True to Brown” from the Brown band, the fireworks show was one of the most moving and in sync fireworks show that I have seen. Not only were the fireworks themselves remarkable, but having the fireworks on top of and behind University Hall personalized the celebration and brought it home to Brown’s campus. The show was capped off with small sparklers outlining a “250+” on the front of University Hall. This truly was a celebration of Brown, its history, its legacy, and the promise of its future.

Although the 250th anniversary cake and fireworks were certainly impressive and surprising, one has to wonder about the financial cost of these events. As the Providence Journal quotes Oakleaf, the cake maker, “’There are (wedding cakes for heads of state that are in the two-thousand serving range, but as far as I know, cake sculpture-wise, to have over a thousand servings is incredibly rare, just because it’s incredibly expensive.’ Price tag — confidential.”1 Walking away from the main green after the event, a student was also overheard saying to a friend, “Well, we just lost so much financial aid.” While celebration is definitely called for, the expense may not have been the most practical use of Brown’s dollars.

Tonight, Brown displayed an unprecedented and extraordinary show that marked the beginning of a year-long celebration of its 250th anniversary. While many students were skeptical at first about Brown’s ability to put on fireworks and a 1000+ cake, many would agree that the celebration of Brown’s history was, in fact, truly captured tonight. Price, however, doesn’t appear to be a factor, in the planning of Brown’s 250th anniversary celebration.

[1] “LOCAL NEWS.” Brown’s Sculpted 250th Anniversary Cake for 2,500 a Giant Undertaking / Video. Providence Journal, 07 Mar. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2014.