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Bragging rights: Cornell wins ACCED-I collegiate event award for Cornell ’23 Benefit Concert

Excitement hit a fever pitch in Ithaca last May as Dead & Company, the band that features members of the Grateful Dead, performed an intimate benefit concert to mark the anniversary of the iconic 5.8.77 Grateful Dead show at Cornell's Barton Hall. It was an epic event in every way, and earlier this month at its annual conference in Providence, Rhode Island, the Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International recognized Cornell with an Outstanding Institutional Achievement Award in the Single Event category for the show and the efforts of our staff.

A row of smiling people with a lucite award being held in the center. Three of the people are wearing tie-dye shirts that say event staff.
Cornell's Conference & Event Services crew received the award at ACCED-I's Annual Conference in Providence.

The concert and surrounding efforts raised a staggering $3 million for Cornell University’s 2030 Project, in which researchers combine science, scholarship and innovation to develop climate-change solutions, and the Recording Academy’s MusiCares organization, which provides a safety net of critical health and welfare services to the music industry. That sum included ticket sales, VIP packages, merchandise, and auctions, plus sales of livestream viewing and ticket sales for a satellite viewing event at Downtown Ithaca's historic State Theatre.

Planning for, coordinating, and executing the event brought together teams from across the University for an impressive level of collaboration. This was primarily a joint effort of the Student and Campus Life University Events and Alumni Affairs and Development teams, but included support from Cornell Athletics, the Cornell University Police Department, Cornell Concert Commission, Risk Management, Environment, Health and Safety, University Fire Marshal's Office, Facilities and Campus Services, Cornell Dining, and more.

Organizers transformed a cavernous indoor turf facility near the concert venue into a reception space for the VIP event the night before the show, featuring a lounge area, multiple bars, tables, couches, and so on. Barton Hall, the century-old drill hall and fieldhouse where the original Cornell ’77 concert took place, blossomed into a state-of-the-art concert venue with better-than-ever acoustics, without losing the feel of the iconic setting as it existed 46 years earlier.

Beyond this remarkable choreography of effort to bring off the core events, the Cornell Chimesmasters played their annual Grateful Dead concert medley, the Cornell Dairy Bar sold a limited-edition ice cream flavor dubbed Barton Ripple ’23, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology partnered with the band to incorporate bird calls into one of their drum sets, and more. The event had a huge ripple effect -- no pun intended -- by bringing a tremendous boost to the local community for that weekend and week, impacting hotels, Airbnb and other vacation rentals, restaurants, shops, rideshare drivers, and countless other segments of the economy.

Last fall, the Cornell ’23 team also received honorable mention in the One Cornell category at the Cornell President's Awards for Employee Excellence ceremony. Congratulations to the CES and AAD teams on the recognition for their hard work, and kudos to all of the campus partners who helped make it all possible.