A Look Inside: Bringing a Carnival to Belmont’s Campus during Presidential Inauguration

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Carnival 
Inauguration Carnival

Belmont’s student life team was given a green light to dream up something special for a day focused on the internal Belmont community during the three-day Presidential Inauguration Celebration, and they brought their A-game. Assistant Director of Student Engagement Laurel Hildner said the goal was to execute a day that “let hope ABOUND,” with the sky as the limit. The team dreamed up the idea of a campus carnival and followed through to create an event that will not be soon forgotten by Belmont students, faculty and staff.

Ending up with a Ferris wheel, a giant slide, bungee jumping, a carnival food truck, a sidewalk full of students’ chalk creations, games and merchandise galore – on the main lawn, no less – felt to the student life team like a tangible example of what ‘letting hope abound’ will mean for this new era at Belmont.

“From the start, Dr. Jones stated that he wanted the first part of the inauguration to be for Belmont students. Kicking off his inauguration festivities with a carnival, a free Ben Rector concert and a free trip to the National Museum of African American Music spoke volumes to how Dr. Jones thinks about his role as President,” said Ryan Holt, assistant dean of students and director of new student orientation programming. “Foundationally, our work at Belmont is to impact the lives of students. Our hope is that students will be talking about this extraordinary day for years to come.”

For the carnival, the team quickly jumped in to plan out all the logistics: from power sources to insurance, catering orders to printing needs and more. On November 3, the team made sure every detail they had worked on prior was carried out in a way to maximize the experience for Belmont students, whether that meant running back to the office for a carnival game prize refill or asking volunteers to spin more cotton candy.

Cross-campus teamwork was vital, and the event would not have been possible without so many coming together and committing to the event. “There are a lot of moving pieces when planning a carnival, and we needed the expertise of many people on campus to pull it off. Ultimately, we all wanted this to be a day for carefree fun and the commitment to pulling that off is what got us across the finish line,” Hildner said. “Even when we hit roadblocks, the team we put together would find a way to make it work. From facilities and risk management to the events and student life teams, it really took a village, and we think it turned out great.”

The best part was seeing people from all areas of campus coming together and enjoying themselves. Staff rode the super slide, faculty enjoyed funnel cakes, senior leaders waved from the top of the Ferris wheel — modeling for students how much Dr. Jones and the Belmont administration prioritizes strong community, mental health and happiness. This could have easily been designed for students only, but it was important to Dr. Jones to help build connections across staff, faculty and student populations.

While Hildner is new to Belmont, she can tell there is a genuine desire for increased student life on campus and the carnival was a testament to that.

“The sight of the Ferris wheel in the distance with hundreds of students playing games and jumping around in bouncy houses signified to me how committed the Joneses are to infusing our campus with energy and fun for students and staff,” she explained. “It is one thing to dream of things like this on paper, and it is another thing to have the support and resources to pull it off. The Joneses have made clear through their support that this type of student engagement on campus is going to be the norm, and that is something I am really excited for.”

View more photos from the carnival here.