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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Sept. 1, 2002) - Experience UF, a yearlong celebration of the University of Florida's 150th anniversary, will kick-off festivities in January 2003 with a weekend full of events for students and alumni.

The celebration begins at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10 with the Blankets, Bands and Bonfire event at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. UF students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members are welcome to attend this free family-friendly event.

The event will center on a roaring bonfire, complete with small bags of marshmallows and roasting sticks for sale. Gainesville natives Sister Hazel and Big Sky, two bands full of UF graduates who have achieved national music success, will perform a free concert at 8 p.m. A fireworks display will follow the concert at 9 p.m.

The second event of the weekend, Share the UF Experience, will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 11. The UF Cicerones will serve as guides for trolley tours around campus on a first come first serve basis. Tours will begin and end at the J. Wayne Reitz Union parking lot.

Beginning at 12:30 p.m., alumni and their families can enjoy a catered barbecue lunch, carnival games and various other activities on the Reitz Union north lawn, colonnade and cinema. UF cheerleaders, pep band and mascots will perform and provide photo opportunities for students, alumni and their families.

Alumni are encouraged to share memories from their years at UF on a timeline memory board stretching from the north lawn to the colonnade. A silent auction will be held on the first floor of the Reitz Union featuring footballs signed by Coach Steve Spurrier, basketballs signed by Coach Billy Donovan and other UF novelties. Historical footage of university life will play in the Reitz cinema every 15 minutes.

The weekend's closing event, Experience the Past, Present and Future of UF, begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for distinguished alumni, donors and staff. The social will feature cocktails and appetizers until 8 p.m., when keynote speakers will discuss the past, present and future of the university. UF memorabilia and a photographic timeline will also be on display.

UF is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the year the state-funded East Florida Seminary took over the Kingsbury Academy in Ocala. In 1905, the legislature moved to make the college a university. The seminary was combined with the state's land grant Florida Agricultural College, moved to Gainesville and named the University of Florida in 1906. Classes first met on September 26, 1906 with 102 students. The University of Florida is currently the sixth largest university in the nation, and the largest of Florida's 10 state universities.