“It’s a promoter’s Christmas,” said Moxey, who along with his partner, Mark Spain, runs JetSetDC.com. “It’s one time of the year when it’s really good to be a promoter.”
This weekend is Howard University’s 87th annual homecoming, when students, alumni and others pour into Washington for the most renowned of the homecomings thrown by historically black colleges and universities.
Party promoters such as Moxey circle the weekend on their calendars, certain that they’ll be able to charge admission prices two or three times the usual. University officials receive more than $1 million in donations and profits. It is one of the most profitable weekends for lower Georgia Avenue business owners.
And Howard officials say that sales at the bookstore can reach $100,000 over the weekend, when alumni often come to buy school clothing and other gear.
Elliot Ferguson, president and chief executive of Destination D.C., said Howard’s homecoming is comparable to the Cherry Blossom Festival in that there is a spike in the city’s weekend business, including high occupancy and retention of hotel rooms.
The university sponsors nearly 30 student and alumni events on campus and around the city, including concerts, pageants, Yardfest, the Saturday morning parade and game day activities. Some events are free, but most charge a fee.
A “Prestige pass” costs $487 and includes access to 11 events, including the step show, an R &B concert and Saturday’s football game against North Carolina A&T. Fifteen of the all-access passes were sold. A $287 “weekend pass” was offered, as well.
The profits from ticket sales are used for planning and supporting the next year’s festivities.
Some students complained of being priced out of their own homecoming. A ticket to this year’s step show, for instance, costs $50, up from $35 last year. Still, 4,000 tickets had been sold.
Sydney Greene, a freshman from Arlington, Tex., said she wanted to go to the poetry cipher on Tuesday. Most of her friends scoffed at the $25 price, so she didn’t go.
“I know a lot of my friends couldn’t go to some of the events they wanted to because they weren’t being sent the money that they needed,” she said.
Greene said she went to homecoming last year with her sister, also a Howard student, and didn’t spend more than $100. “This year, you buy two tickets, and it’s already $100, basically,” she said.
The university did not release how much it costs to put on homecoming each year. But Shenise McKnight, who heads the homecoming committee, said prices increased partly because the committee received less seed money than expected.
The committee relied heavily on sponsorships and fundraisers. McKnight, a senior marketing major from Sacramento, said the committee reached out to BET, which sponsored Friday’s Yardfest, a midday party in the center of campus.