On its 100th birthday, SAIT opened its doors on a sunny fall Sunday afternoon to thousands of Calgarians who thronged the campus to celebrate and remember the institute’s rich history.
Bouncy castles, Try-A-Skill, Family Skating and the SAIT Speaker Series were only some of the events held throughout the day.
At 1:30 pm, the Stan Grad Centre was brimming with onlookers during the 1966 time capsule unveiling, where items interred for SAIT’s 50th were publicly displayed for the first time.
Inside, the capsule held memorabilia like a Calgary phonebook with an ad for the newly opened North Hill Mall, which at the time was deemed the biggest in North America.
A letter addressed to SAIT in 2016 penned by former president Fred Jorgenson was read aloud by Dr. David Ross, SAIT’s current president and CEO.
“I think the most marked characteristic of this institute in 1966, the golden jubilee year, is the dedication of its staff,” Jorgenson wrote.
“I have a strong will to be alive on the day this is recovered in 2016. If miracles should preserve my life that long, please send me a copy of this statement. If not, please be assured of my gratitude for having been associated for 10 years with this fine Institute of Technology.”
Jorgenson died at 93 in June, just four months short of witnessing the centennial.
The contents of both the 1966 and 1991 time capsules are now on display at the Reg Erhardt Library.
Also on display was the seven-foot-tall birthday cake, a project spearheaded by Chef Rose Warden and 70 student volunteers.
Since last April, the cake has taken 1,200 hours of labour by SAIT’s School of Hospitality.
“It was such a group collaboration,” said Amethyst Thompson, a second-year Baking and Pastry Arts student who had volunteered from the beginning.
The multi-tiered cake featured more than 100 handmade fondant figurines of well-known personalities, including Mayor Naheed Nenshi and SAITSA President Gar Gar.
“My absolute favourite part happened this morning when we put it all together,” said Thompson.
“Seeing it all come together is honestly like magic,” she said.
“It’s food magic. We’re food magicians.”
The baking team even used a ladder to assemble the last three tiers of the cake, which was unveiled in the Irene Lewis Atrium of the Stan Grad Centre.
For SAITSA President Gar Gar, taking part in SAIT’s centennial is being a part of history.
“I feel awesome, just because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Gar said.
“It’s something that we’ll talk about for years to come and feel that we were a part of history.”
The first 3,000 students to attend were given a free centennial edition SAIT T-shirt designed by alumna Sarah Erasmus.
They were also given free tickets to sample the International Food Fair, which featured Mexican, Indian, Korean and Canadiana cuisine later in the afternoon.
Canadian musician Dan Mangan performed at the Cohos Common soccer field as the sun set.
A fireworks finale set to music ushered in SAIT’s centennial year at 7:16 p.m., or 19:16 on the 24-hour clock, as a salute to its birth date.
Spectators were awed by pyrotechnics set off from Senator Burns, Heritage Hall, Campus Centre and the south end of the Cohos Common.
“It’s been magical,” said Cathy Downey, SAIT’s Centennial Project Director.
“So many Calgarians came out, including alumni, staff and students. We’ve been so grateful for the support.”
The birthday party came together with the help of 400 volunteers, but Downey predicts well over 2,000 people will chip in during the centennial year.
“I had the pleasure of overseeing the strategy, but I couldn’t have done it without the hundreds of people that came together to make this work today,” said Downey.
“Grateful is the only word I can use,” she said.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of projects like this.”