Party on the Plaza (POP) is almost here and preparing for an event of this scale takes more than just a couple months of planning. The party will be held Sept. 23 on Founder's Plaza and planning for it began nearly a year ago. Venues and backup venues were booked the day after last year's party. A change in theme was discussed and decided, a menu was made and revised, setup was drawn out and drinks were chosen — all many months in advance.
This year's POP will be a new experience for those who attend. POP has been Oktoberfest-themed since 2011 and the planning team decided it was time for a change. Brielle Dunham, alumni relations and annual giving coordinator, said they had a few options on the table but “A Night in Tuscany” always remained at the top of the list. Organizers felt it was fitting to have an Italian theme as the university was founded by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ who are rooted in Italy.
Decor and drinks
The decorations will take you on a trip down the streets of Italy with string lights, elegant table settings, wine barrels, wine bottles, wine corks and plenty of wine. With an Italian theme, the wine selection will be larger and more prominent than previous years. The wine list this year includes:
- Banfi Centine Rosso Toscana
- La Fiera Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
- Gabbiano Chianti
- Folonari Merlot
- Zonin Pinot Grigio
- Tavolo Matto Chardonnay
- Seven Daughters Moscato
- Ca’ De’ Medici Cubista Lambrusco Rosso
- Banfi Col Di Sasso
The Beer Wagon and Carrocci Bar will provide other drink options as well.
Food and prep
Chris Heck, director of food services, has been a part of POP since 2001. To provide a meal of this scale, he and his team are joined by nearly 10 directors and workers from neighboring colleges. More than 520 guests will be in attendance at this year's party so they need all hands on deck.
Most of the food preparation starts the week of POP but if anything can be done before, Heck and his team get it done. Heck said they start with the things that can't go bad, like croutons, as soon as they can. The week of the event, outside help arrives as early as Wednesday to complete the full meal.
On Sept. 23, Heck will arrive at 6 a.m. for setup and stay until the last table and chair are put away. Most years it's past midnight before he leaves.
In the morning he will play coach to the 30-35 athletes who help set-up tables and chairs. He shows them how to decorate the tables and supervises their work. Rolled silverware is placed at each seat, water and tea is set out and centerpieces are completed before noon.
Bob Matej has been a chef at Newman for 18 of his 48 years in the profession. He spent two weeks drawing up the perfect menu for the event.
This year he's swapped out brats and sauerkraut with mouth watering Italian dishes complete with classic Italian finishes like tomato or cream sauce, a variety of cheeses and baskets of bread. One main dish option for guests will be Florentine chicken breasts covered in a cream cheese sauce, garnished with fresh spinach and Parmesan. Choices of arista — a stuffed roast loin of pork stuffed with sage, rosemary and garlic — or tortellini served in tomato sauce with Italian sausage will also be offered.
Dunham and Heck worked together to create a space and system for an extra buffet line this year. This means fresher food for guests and less wait time in line.
Following dinner, dessert will be a choice of melt-in-your-mouth tiramisu or cannoli.
There are still a limited number of tickets available, and plenty of ways to support this great event. Visit the Party on the Plaza website for more information.