From getting ready for an influx of guests at hotels to gardening crews making sure the flowers look as beautiful as can be, Elon University — along with the surrounding area — has been preparing for the commencement ceremony.

The Facilities Management department has had multiple teams getting the campus ready for commencement, Senior Director for Facilities Management Raymond Fletcher, said. 

There are 240 workers divided into multiple teams, including grounds and landscaping, moving and setups and environmental service. The team has completed over 50 work orders related to commencement activities this year, Fletcher said.

“We are focused on preparing the campus and facilities to look their best, with the goal of providing the best environment for our graduating seniors to have a memorable day with their families and friends,” Fletcher wrote in a statement to Elon News Network.

Fletcher declined Elon News Network’s request for an interview.

In the same vein, the gardening crew has been busy planting flowers, pruning trees and shrubs throughout campus and keeping weeds under control, according to Landscape Manager Dawn Hensley.

A big focus has been on containing the recent surge of weeds, Charlie Cheema, Elon University gardner, said. 

“It's gotten very warm very quickly and it's become very wet very quickly, which is a recipe for weeds,” Cheema said. “So our team has been battling weeds all over campus that have popped up. We've been spending a lot of time pulling weeds and spraying weeds.”

The gardening crew has also placed a heavy focus on areas where there are commencement related events, Hensley said. She said that they are spending more time detailing those areas. 

Cheema said that they are honing in on what they think is most important as far as what people will be looking at and where people will be.

“Our main focus is going to be making sure that those super high visibility areas on campus are just as pristine as can be,” Cheema said.

The gardening crew has also recently switched out the flower beds around campus from cool season flowers to warm season flowers, according to Cheema.

“We took out all of the pansies and violas and the cool season flowers, and we put in brand new stuff with new designs that should hopefully look beautiful by the time that commencement comes around,” Cheema said. 

Groundskeeper Chris Wilson said that the teams put the final touches on and made sure that everything looks good. 

“Everybody's just trying to make sure everything is top notch,” Wilson said. 

Another task that the landscaping team handled is the oak saplings seniors received at the Numen Lumen Senior Baccalaureate Reflection on May 21, Hensley said. 

In April, landscaping received the oak saplings and potted them up so they would be ready for the ceremony. The gardening crew has recently prepared the saplings by removing them from the trays, washing off the dirt from the pot, putting a plastic cover around the pot and placing a tag on each sapling. Also, they assisted in giving them out during the ceremony.

Staff at The Inn at Elon have also been busy preparing for commencement. Over 200 visitors are staying at the inn during graduation, according to Front Office Manager Nichole Lay. Reservations for this year’s commencement weekend opened May 21, 2023 and were fully booked within 15 minutes, Lay said. 

Despite being fully booked, Lay said the front desk frequently gets calls about availability for commencement as she predicted they will continue getting calls until the day before commencement activities start. 

To prepare for the influx of visitors — as commencement and family weekend are the inn’s busiest times of year — Lay said they are working longer hours with more staff. When it comes to staffing the Inn, Lay said they rely heavily on local employees as most student employees have left campus or are graduating themselves.  

Reservations for next year’s commencement weekend opened on May 25. 

Just off campus, downtown Elon businesses have been getting ready for waves of families and friends commencement will bring. 

Simply Oaks owner Melissa Troutman said commencement tends to be the boutique’s last busy weekend before summer.

“It gets a little quiet around here, so it's a nice little boost to help us get us through the summer months,” Troutman said. 

The boutique staff have been working with local vendors to ensure the storefront is well stocked for last minute graduation gifts and Elon-themed mementos. 

“We've been collecting a lot of Elon stuff for parents and graduates to come to pick through,” Troutman said. “We've got some special ornaments and hand painted pictures, T-shirts, acorn necklaces, that sort of thing.”

This is Troutman’s seventh year Simply Oak will be open for commencement and Troutman said the business has prepared with extra staff and inventory. 

The Barnes & Noble, Elon University’s official bookstore, has also geared up for commencement. Assistant Store Manager Wilson Mericle said the store has an abundance of extra caps and gowns for graduating students in a pinch. 

The first floor of the store also has diploma frames and other items for graduating students available. 

Pandora’s Pies’ commencement weekend preparations include ingredient preparation, stocking alcohol and scheduling more staff than usual, according to owner Kimberly Holt. 

“It'll just be prepping a bunch of stuff to make sure that we have plenty of homemade mozzarella, plenty of pizza sauce made, plenty of — because we make our bread in house — go ahead and we’ll probably make that on Monday,” Holt said. “Just trying to get it done before all the families start rolling in.”

With the commencement crowd, Pandora’s Pies will be more packed than usual. 

“Just be patient because there's not that many restaurants around when you have that many people come into town,” Holt said. “Let’s just have fun and get through this and enjoy the summer.”