A Brief Introduction to Heaven on Earth
Princeton Reunions is not a typical college reunion for several reasons. First, it's truly plural -- it's not just one reunion but many, held every year for every graduating class. Other colleges usually only have, say 5th, 10th, and 25th year reunions, but some party-planning genius at Princeton long ago decided that wasn't enough to celebrate "the best years of your life." I met a guy at the 2000 Reunions from the Class of '56 who said he hasn't missed a year yet. "I've stayed on campus every year for 44 years," he said. "My wife stays in a hotel. She doesn't like sleeping on the floor in dorm rooms." This of course is an extreme example.
Second, Princeton Reunions is one of the best deals ever. The only thing you need to get in is get your hands on a wristband pass, unless you manage to sneak in along with every high-schooler in the area. A pass is good for two days and three nights -- Thursday night extending until the wee hours of Sunday morning. For most of this 72-hour period, beer is available on tap, perhaps more beer than you've ever seen -- the number of kegs is in the thousands. According to the legend, in the '80s, Princeton Reunions ranked second behind only the Indy 500 in total Budweiser beer sales. In addition, all types of food are provided, as well as bands, DJs, and a fireworks display rivaling that of a large city on the 4th of July.
Best of all, a pass allows you admittance to all of the reunions, each grouped in massive tents housing a cluster of five graduating classes. This multi-event reunions structure serves as a diverse menu of excitement for the night. A typical experience involves hopping around from one reunion to the next, sampling different foods and bands, and occasionally chancing upon a fully-stocked open bar. Typical Reunions speak: "OK, let's hit the 15th, grab a couple of drinks, then go listen to Smokey Robinson at the 25th, then swing by the 50th and have a scotch, then have a few beers at the 10th before heading on to the dancefloor at the 5th." The variations are endless.
Third, Princeton Reunions is fun even if you didn't go to Princeton. It's a truly universal event, far less about reuniting and Princeton than letting loose and reveling in a great party. Convincing people of this isn't always easy -- until they go, that is. Some friends of mine who didn't go to Princeton have gone to Reunions now six years in a row. On multiple occasions they've run into friends of theirs who didn't go to Princeton either. "What are you doing here?" my friends would ask. "What do you mean? I come every year!" Obviously, the word's gotten out: this is a great party not to be missed.
So, these are some of the factors that make Princeton Reunions unique: the plurality of reunions, the broad entertainment options, the univeral nature of the event, the thousands of kegs. But the key differentiator is something else that's difficult to explain. It is a merging of all ages and reduction to a common denominator, a uniquely contagious energy of vitality spreading to everyone there. It slips your normal everyday life into the background for a moment and replaces it with a timeless air of celebration.
The most obvious time this can be felt is during the "P-Rade", a human parade of alumni held on Saturday beginning with the oldest living alum and continuing on to the youngest. It is a living study of age, a time-elapsed procession of the generations in heinous hues of orange and black. Watching the oldest alum bravely leading the charge with the silver cane (usually in a golf cart) with tens of thousands of people cheering him on is easily the most incredible moment in all of Reunions. It reminds everyone there how important it is to take moments to celebrate life, which, when it really comes down to it, is what Princeton Reunions is all about.
Princeton Reunions: a lifetime of partying served up in as many annual installments as you can handle, a true heaven on Earth.