Paint the Town Red

Sesquicentennial festivities kick off in the Big Apple.

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empire state building

The Empire State Building sports Cornell colors.

Photo: Diane Bondareff

The Big Red Bear greeted “Today” show fans on Rockefeller Plaza. President David Skorton jammed with Wynton Marsalis at Jazz at Lincoln Center. The Empire State Building and the NASDAQ sign were lit up in dazzling red and white.

Imagse from NYC

Kudos from the NASDAQ.

Photo: Diane Bondareff

All that and more fueled the launch of Cornell’s Sesquicentennial celebrations, kicked off by a weekend of events in New York City in September. They included two performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center (one with a champagne brunch, the other with a gala dinner) of “The Big Idea!,” a 150th birthday show featuring famous Cornellians, music and dance acts, sets evoking East Hill, carnelian-clad alumni, and bucketloads of Big Red spirit.

President David Skorton performs on flute with trumpet great Wynton Marsalis at Jazz at Lincoln Center, with the Suspension Bridge in the background; the Marching Band on Rockefeller Plaza.

Photo: Diane Bondareff

The show—which will travel around the U.S. between November and May, plus performances in Hong Kong and London—was hosted in New York by actors Jimmy Smits, MFA ’82 (“NYPD Blue,” “The West Wing”), and Adepero Oduye ’99 (Twelve Years a Slave); actor and football star Ed Marinaro ’72, BS ’73; and TV journalist Kate Snow ’91 (gamely appearing in a cast following a recent leg injury), among others. It included performances by the Cornell Bhangra dance squad, the Big Red Marching Band, and the University Glee Club, plus some vaudeville-style banter—Marinaro poked gentle fun both at his former team’s less-than-stellar record and at the intellectual acumen of his alma mater, the Hotel school—and appearances by some beloved campus fixtures. (Who and what, exactly? With the show going out on tour, organizers asked CAM not to ruin any surprises.)

Lights, CU, action!: (clockwise from top): President Skorton, Kate Snow ’91, and the Big Red Bear at the Empire State Building lighting ceremony; “Big Idea!” co-host Jimmy Smits, MFA ’82, onstage; and some mood music before the evening show, complete with a view of Columbus Circle.

Photo: Diane Bondareff

The next performance of “The Big Idea!” is set for November 14 in Washington, D.C. For more information, go to 150.cornell.edu.

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