In one week my oldest son will graduate from Armor Basic Officer Leader Course (BLOC) at Fort Benning, GA. In two weeks families from around the country will arrive in Charleston, SC for Parents’ Weekend at The Citadel. This is the first time in four years we will not be in Charleston and it feels really strange.
I was going through photos from last year and thought of a few things I learned about parents Weekend that I should pass along.
For the families of seniors this weekend is all about the Ring. The afternoon presentation is in McAlister Field house. The Cadet Activities office does a great job of posting information in advance. You’ll see people in all types of dress. The senior cadets will be in their most formal uniform. We decided to wear nice clothes for the presentation.
One little tip for the mothers of cadets. . . if you would like the “Mother’s Ring” or a pendant consider buying it for yourself. Some cadets will order them on their own, but not many do. Parents of underclass cadets – the ring is ordered in their junior year. The payment is due early their senior year. The price varies with the gold prices and it can be close to $1,000.
After the seniors go into the field house the rest of the Corps of Cadets and their families can participate in the academic open house and the address by the president, or just leave campus. Of course you always need to check with your cadet. Depending on their rank and company they may have certain duties to perform.
Friday night is the night the senior cadets walk through the replica of the Ring with their mother, date and /or family member. The cadet activities office posts the schedule of when each company is assigned to go through the ring. You need to be at the field house 15 minutes prior to the posted time. If you have an early time you can plan on dinner after you go through the ring. Our time was after 8:00 so a group of Bravo families went to dinner prior to going through the ring. Our cadets didn’t plan ahead. One of the moms’s called around Wednesday night to find a place that would take our group of 30 a the last-minute. Some companies have a tradition of having dinner together at a hotel. The school arranges to have a photographer at the presentation and also at he Hop afterwards. Do not be upset if your senior wants to spend most of their time with their buddies. They have waited three years to earn the right to wear that band of gold.
Saturday morning is a crazy busy time. Schedules vary but in general you can go to the barracks and see your cadet and their room. . Parents’ Weekend is the first time of the school year when they have Open Barracks, a time when family, friends and alumni can enter the barracks and visit rooms. The knobs prepare for this day weeks in advance. They put a lot of time into painting a banner to be displayed from the 4th division (4th floor) of the barracks. If you wondered where their sheets went to, take a close look at the banner. Seriously, the banner and the various bulletin boards are a big deal. Each floor has a different bulletin board. The cadets take great pride in their designs each year. Make sure to notice them.
You can hear the Regimental Band concert of Summerall Field, watch the Kelly Cup competition and see the Rifle Legion Performance Saturday morning too. At 10:00 parents of knobs will want to be in the battalion to watch the promotion ceremony for the knobs. They are promoted from cadet recruits to cadet privates. The Citadel Heroes volunteers will man a table where you can sign cards for deployed cadets and recent graduates.
After the promotion ceremony the cadets get ready for the parade. First year parents will soon learn to stake out their spot in the stands early or bring their own chairs.
There is very little time between the parade and when the cadets have to get ready to march to the football stadium. You can pack your own lunch, eat in Coward Mess Hall or purchase a box lunch through cadet activities. We ate in the mess hall the first year then brought our own lunch after the first year. I’ve learned that if you ask 5 different people their opinion of what to do for lunch that day you will get 5 different answers. Do what your cadet would like to do.
It is fun to watch the cadets march to the stadium. Once you get to your seats you can watch the cadets line the field to cheer on the team. The cadets all sit together. We found sitting across the field from the cadet section was our favorite spot. You are out of the sun. The Summerall Guards perform at half-time.
(NOTE the following paragraph about group tickets is not valid for 2012 tickets. There are no group rates for parent’s Weekend and Homecoming in 2012)
A good friend of mine purchased a block of tickets at a discount then made them available to friends. The normal $30 ticket at the group rate was only $6 each. My son’s senior year we had over 200 people in our section. I had to pay for the tickets but everyone sent me their checks and a self-addressed stamped envelope. To do this you need to plan in advance. I purchased the tickets Matriculation Weekend at the ticket office and had the pick of the best seating. Posting a notice to the parent Facebook groups is a quick way to get the word out about ticket availability.
Once the game is over the cadets are free to join their family and friends. We were fortunate to have a group of friends to tailgate with each fall. Most knobs want to get good food and sleep before returning to the barracks around 11:30 pm. There is a silent procession of cars that drive around the parade field the hour before their curfew. It reminded me of the final scene from the movie “Field of Dreams,” when all you can see are a stream of headlights.
Sunday morning after chapel or ethics seminar the knobs can go off campus until about 6:00 or 7:00.
Just remember the weekend will fly by. You’ll do a lot of walking so wear comfortable shoes. Parking is always tight these big weekends so getting to campus early Saturday is a good idea.
Miscellaneous tips and info:
Dress: Be sure to check the weather reports. The past 4 years the weather was mostly very warm and sunny. Summer weight clothes are best. You’ll see a variety of outfits, mostly casual. Comfortable shoes are best since you do a good bit of walking. It did rain one year. Umbrellas are not allowed in the stadium. A rain poncho is best.
Hotels: Most hotels will offer a special rate for Citadel families. Call the hotel directly and ask if they offer a Citadel family rate. The hotels closest to the school book very quickly. Marriott, Best Western, LaQuinta and SpringHill Suites, Marriott Courtyard are all very close. The Hawthorn Suites Hotel is near The Citadel Mall and about 7 miles away they offer a very low rate for a suite room. Please feel free to leave your hotel recommendations in the comment section.
Charleston is known for it’s great restaurants. Reservations are suggested for most fine dining restaurants. You can find some wonderful places all around the area. The places farther from downtown are easier to get into and the prices can be lower too. Feel free to leave a comment below with your favorite restaurant tips.