W&M fills 'Today' crowd with green and gold| September 24, 2008
Sleep – no. Al Roker – yes. Kevin Dua wasn’t going to miss this.
With his face painted green and gold and holding a sign reading "Al Roker is the best celeb to come here since the queen," the William and Mary senior left his dorm room before 4 a.m. in order to get a good spot on the Duke of Gloucester Street. He was one of the hundreds of William and Mary faithful who joined the crowd of the NBC’s "Today" show as it aired live from the colonial capital on Sept. 24.
"It was fun and exciting to get ready at 3:45 and head down DoG Street in Tribe Pride gear while it was still pitch-black outside," he said. "It was a great, memorable experience for me overall."
The broadcast came to Virginia as part of the show’s coverage of the upcoming presidential election. Virginia has been tagged as one of several battleground states in the campaign.
By the time the show began at 7 a.m., the Duke of Gloucester Street was crowded with hundreds of people, many of them carrying political signs and chanting for their favorite presidential pick. But William and Mary was also well represented.
Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni sported green and gold apparel and held signs touting the College. The crowd chanted "William" and "Mary," and the William and Mary Choir led the crowd in singing the College’s Alma Mater.
Much of the morning show’s crowd was centered around the Raleigh Tavern where TV personality Al Roker, wearing colonial garb, arrived by carriage. At one moment during the show, Roker motioned towards the College and acknowledged the large Tribe presence in the crowd.
"Just down the Duke of Gloucester Street is William and Mary," he said. "A lot of College students are missing class."
Roker also sported a William and Mary hat for much of the show.
Down the street, another crowd gathered near the capitol building where "Today" co-host Matt Lauer was filming. Some William and Mary students found their way to a fence along the Francis Street where they could see Lauer interviewing Luke Russert, son of the late Tim Russert. Junior Kira Allmann and seniors Greg Collins, Beth Mahalak and Brittany Gleason displayed a large William and Mary sign and yelled to Lauer across the fence during a break in the show.
"My mom loves you," said Collins.
"Thanks for making me feel old," Lauer replied.
That brief interaction started a friendly conversation across a field where the students asked Lauer whether he was enjoying Williamsburg and if he’d like to tour William and Mary. Lauer, who used to live in Richmond, declined the offer but said he always enjoyed being in the area.
The students said they thought the interaction, though brief, was pretty cool.
"How many other times do you get to talk to Matt Lauer?" said Collins.
Later in the show, Lauer and Roker met up near the Raleigh Tavern where they again acknowledged the William and Mary presence in the crowd as students started singing the Alma Mater.
"They’re singing the William and Mary theme song," said Roker.
As many William and Mary students, faculty, staff and alumni watched the show from the sidelines, one College student was helping make it all happen. David Culver, a senior at the College who interned with NBC’s Nightly News, served as a production assistant on the show. He worked with them on Monday and Tuesday as they did advance work for the show, and he worked as a "runner" during the actual production.
"Usually, I don't jump up in the morning when my alarm goes off," said Culver. "Today, I couldn't have been happier waking up at 3 a.m. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into TV that you can't appreciate until you experience it first-hand. This was a thrilling opportunity. I'm glad the College could participate in it."
Along with the "Today" show, several other news crews were in Williamsburg covering the show’s stop in the area. Senior Michael Blaakman, a member of the William and Mary Choir, was even interviewed by MTV News’ Choose or Lose.
Though the large crowd was sometimes "a little intense and scary at times," Dua said he was happy he came out for the show and that the College was represented.
"I guess I didn’t realize how political of an event it was going to be, but I’m glad the students were able to sing the Alma Mater a few times over all the political chanting," he said.