Back2Bellingham events bring 7,000 people to campus

The annual Party in the Library drew hundreds to the Wilson Library Reading Room for drinks and appetizers. Photo by Zeck Koa | WWU Alumni

The Red Square carnival featured all kinds of bouncy fun. Photo by Zeck Koa | WWU Alumni

Western Today staff

Western Washington University’s Third Annual Back2Bellingham reunion weekend May 18–20 was the most successful to-date, drawing nearly 7,000 people to campus and exceeding university expectations with sold-out shows and events Thursday through Sunday.

About 81 percent of Back2Bellingham registrants traveled from nine different states, British Columbia and the District of Columbia to attend the weekend’s festivities.

“All major player hotels were sold out the entire weekend,” said Cheryl Collins, visitor services manager for Whatcom County Tourism.

“We were just delighted to have such a diverse group of alumni, current and future students, parents, faculty and staff, as well as neighbors from the community join us for the biggest Back2Bellingham yet. This gathering to celebrate the distinctive excellence and community that is Western is becoming one of the year’s highlights,” said Western President Bruce Shepard.

Sponsored by Western’s Alumni Association, Back2Bellingham 2012 brought together all seven WWU colleges, 17 departments and 21 organizations on campus to coordinate more than 100 events for current and prospective students, parents, alumni, community members and faculty and staff.

“For our 103,000 alumni, their experience at Western and Bellingham are synonymous,” said Deborah DeWees, Executive Director of Western’s Alumni Association. “Our alumni told us they wanted a reunion that includes both the university and the community. Back2Bellingham became the vision for providing that scratch and sniff experience to share with their families what it was like as a Western student living in Bellingham.”

Bellingham-based businesses are vital to the Western experience, and many partnered with WWU for events and offered specials through the weekend.

“We love being a part of Back2Bellingham,” said Katie Swanson, owner of Katie’s Cupcakes, a Red Square Carnival vendor. “The exposure was great for everyone visiting campus and we had a great weekend at our shop in Fairhaven.”

With help from a Whatcom County Tourism grant and the pro-bono work of alumni-owned JayRaymarketing firm in Tacoma, the Alumni Association ramped up marketing efforts with billboards and bus signs throughout Whatcom County and down the I-5 corridor to reach the greater Seattle audience of 3.7 million. Social media engagement and increased awareness were also factors that contributed to the event’s success.

This year’s B2B highlights were the BBQ lunch on Old Main Lawn with live music by the PrimeTime band and an ‘80s flash mob, the Red Square Carnival with bouncy houses, Party in the Library with Boundary Bay, Science in Red Square with demonstrations of compression bombs, Classes Without Quizzes, Junior Viking Blast Pass, kids athletic camps, the Downtown Bellingham Bash with Spaceband, various campus tours and boat excursions on the water.

 “We are thrilled that so many families came from the Bellingham community to explore our nationally recognized university as a part of the Back2Bellingham Weekend,” said Chris Roselli, Western’s Alumni Association assistant director. “Thanks to the partnerships with various businesses in our community, we were able to put on an incredible weekend filled with reunions, entertainment, education, and wholesome fun for the whole family. We’re really excited for some of the things we have up our sleeve for next year’s B2B.”

Next year’s Back2Bellingham Alumni and Family Reunion will take place May 17-19, 2013.

View and download the photos here. Please give photo credit to Zeck Koa, WWU Alumni Association.