AUSTIN (KXAN) — UPDATE at 5 p.m. Saturday: UT Austin has cancelled it’s commencement ceremony for Saturday night because of inclement weather. They still hope to have the fireworks show at 10 p.m. though.
This weekend marks the University of Texas’ 132nd spring graduation, but the big ceremony Saturday evening could be a little dicey since rain storms are in the forecast.
Nearly 9,000 graduates received their diplomas indoors at the Frank Erwin Center on Friday but the university will officially confer those degrees in a big ceremony at 7 p.m. on Saturday with all the hoopla, including music and fireworks, and after years of lectures, books and exams, everyone is determined the show will go on.
Bob Harkins, the Associate Vice President of Campus Safety and Security says, “Short of lightning and a violent wind storm, things like that, we’re going to try.” Harkins says no one can seem to remember when the big event was ever cancelled outright. “Knock on wood, we’ve been able to dodge a bullet and hopefully we get one more under our belt Saturday.”
The school will monitor things closely and evacuation plans are ready for the expected crowd of 28,000. Lightning is the biggest threat but the grads seem ready. Taylor Parsons, a graduate in exercise science, smiles, “I’ve been through much harder rain. I’ll be here.” Armed with his civil engineering degree, Mark Reiter says the same thing, “I’ll leave my wallet and cellphone with somebody. Hopefully it won’t rain but I’ve got to be here.” His family insisted they will tough it out too.
The school will only cancel if the worst comes but they are prepared to hustle things along if need be. “We’ll move things faster, sing the “Eyes of Texas”, shoot the fireworks and send everyone home, tell everybody ‘thanks,'”‘ says Harkins with a grin.
In the event of rain, small personal umbrellas will be allowed in the seating area but large “golf” umbrellas are not permitted due to the density of seating and the impact on sight lines to screens and stage. This means bring a poncho.
To check on the status of the commencement, follow #UTgrad or monitor the UT website.
There is a sentimental reason to carry on as planned: every August, incoming freshmen are welcomed with a rousing celebration called “Gone to Texas” right there on the south plaza; the very same spot several years later where they will graduate. They are determined to close that circle.