Graduation weekend to draw thousands to Columbia
COLUMBIA - School and city officials predict upwards of 10,000 people will visit Columbia this weekend for graduation ceremonies at the University of Missouri, Columbia College and Stephens College.
All three schools are holding their December commencement events Friday and Saturday. Tourism officials said the increase in family and friends who come to Columbia will give a boost to the city's economy, but drivers could see backups.
"We want to remind the community to be cognizant of the increased number of people, especially if you're near facilities where graduations are happening because there'll be some extra traffic," Megan McConachie with the Columbia Convention & Visitors Bureau said.
The first event is MU's College of Engineering graduation at 1 p.m. Friday at the Hearnes Center. MU has events until 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
One period of especially high traffic will be Friday evening around 6 p.m.
Stephens College's commencement starts at 6 p.m. at the Silverthorne Arena, while MU's School of Journalism graduation and Columbia College's Nurses' Pinning Ceremony will both start at 6:30 p.m.
Another busy time will be Saturday at noon, when Columbia College's commencement ceremony and MU's College of Arts and Science graduation will begin.
Stephens College is expecting more visitors than normal this year. The school's December graduation is typically held in the ballroom on campus, but officials moved it this year to accommodate more guests.
"We are finding that the number of guests students bring is really growing," Rebecca Kline, Director of Marketing, said.
Kline said the school has surveyed students and found the average number of guests for graduation is close to 17 people.
This is drastically higher than at MU, where spokeswoman Liz McCune said students average bringing three to four guests.
McConachie said she sees the extra visitors as a positive thing because they will spend money and support the economy. She said the average person spends about $500 dollars.
"When you multiply that by thousands of visitors, that [money] really increases quickly," she said.
Stephens College will have 55 students graduate on Friday and is expecting around 900 visitors. Columbia College will have 282 students graduate on Saturday, and officials are expecting the ceremony to be at a capacity crowd of 2,000 people. MU will have more than 2,000 students graduate Friday and Saturday, but McCune didn't give a total estimate of visitors expected.
Up-to-date traffic information is on this map.