Staff photos by Kris Snibbe
On Commencement morning, it hovers, gossamer-like, over a stage packed with dignitaries. Its peaks rise majestically and dip sharply, evoking a turbulent sea or the perfect meringue atop a lemon pie.
But several weeks before Harvard’s most sensational event, the Commencement tent is erected on the Memorial Church steps with a workaday efficiency and engineering dexterity that belies its future glamour. A team of four workers from the William Blanchard Company in Wakefield spends two days each year raising the tent, custom-made at a cost of $29,000. Largely free standing, it’s supported by interior poles and anchored to neighboring trees.
The tent provides a dramatic focus for the spectacle of Commencement Day, yet its true duty is practical, sheltering those assembled beneath from the beating sun or falling leaves. But not rain, says Commencement director Grace Scheibner, shuddering as she recalls last year’s drenching.
“I’ve sold my soul,” she says with confidence. “It’s not going to rain.”
– Beth Potier
Jeff Lyon positions a giant supporting beam for the Commencement tent before it is hoisted up by a giant crane.