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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
A youngster grabs some balloons as Weber State University students, faculty and alumni celebrate the school's 125th anniversary in Ogden Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. As part of the festivities, 125 entertainers performed, 12,500 balloons were dropped, a 125-square-foot cake model of the campus was baked, and a $125 million fundraising campaign began.

OGDEN — Students, faculty and alumni sang "Happy Birthday To You" Tuesday as streamers, confetti and roughly 12,500 balloons rained down from the ceiling of the Shepherd Union Building at Weber State University.

The balloons were dropped at 1:25 p.m., and partygoers received a piece of a 125-square-foot cake — all part of daylong celebration on campus for the school's 125th anniversary.

"It's a fun party," WSU President Charles Wight said. "It's time to sit back, relax and enjoy the party."

At the culmination of the event, Wight spoke briefly on the school's history, from its founding in downtown Ogden to its eventual move to the east bench of the city on Harrison Boulevard and the creation of a sister campus in Davis County.

Wight suggested the school has now come full circle with the opening of Weber State Downtown in Ogden and said the 125th anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the university's past while looking toward the future.

"Despite all the changes that have happened in the last 125 years, some things have remained the same," he said. "In many ways, Weber State is just what it has always been and that is worthy of your dreams."

Several students and alumni performed at the event, including bluegrass musician Ryan Shupe, who graduated from WSU in 1996 with a degree in communications.

Shupe said he has visited Weber State off and on throughout the years but was still surprised by how much the campus had grown since his days as a Wildcat.

"I feel honored to be able to come participate in the celebration," he said. "It's definitely changed since when I went to school here."

Derek Van Kampen was one of several students who participated in a trivia event during the celebration. He received a pair of Skullcandy headphones after correctly answering a question about the amount of rehearsal time for campus performances.

Van Kampen said his grandfather was a student when the school opened its current location on Harrison Boulevard. He said it was exciting to be a part of another milestone for the school.

"It's neat that they're doing this," Van Kampen said of the celebration. "They do a lot of fun things, but this is probably one of the coolest ones."

Cozette Jenkins, a journalism student who works in one of the administrative offices that planned the event, said she was pleased at the student and community turnout after seeing the behind-the-scenes effort to organize the celebration.

"So much work went into it," Jenkins said. "It's just really cool to see everyone come out and support Weber."

The atrium of the Shepherd Union Building was filled to capacity as the crowd pressed in to participate in chants of "Weber State, Weber State, great, great, great" and cheer as the confetti and balloons fell. Afterward, catering staff worked frantically to serve the 125-square-foot cake, which was designed as a three-dimensional map of campus.

The cake was created by Michelle Jones, owner of Ogden-based Vintage Cupcake, who said she'd never worked on anything that size before. Jones said a campus representative approached her in October about creating the cake, and she initially underestimated the amount of work it would entail.

"In my mind, I saw that as a full-size mattress or something," she said. "I took all the furniture out of my living room and taped it down on my hardwood floor and it was ridiculously huge."

To create the cake, Jones said she formed the buildings out of Rice Krispies treats and then spent three full days baking. The actual assembly took 14 hours, she said, and was completed around 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, "with five hours to spare."

Jones said she used 10 30-pound buckets of frosting, 75 pounds of flour, 72 pounds of butter, 50 pounds of sugar and roughly 360 eggs. By the time she was finished, she said she was covered head to toe in frosting.

"Cupcakes are so much more my element," Jones said. "The logistics of it, you start laying it down, and it's like painting yourself into a corner with frosting."

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The celebration also included the grand opening of the Campus Store at Weber State Downtown. The nearby Ogden Municipal Building was adorned with 125 Weber State flags, and several downtown businesses offered deals and discounts in commemoration of the anniversary.

Tuesday's anniversary event also marked the launch of the public portion of a multiyear $125 million fundraising campaign. Wight said he expects the campaign to be completed by the summer of 2016, and the funds will be used to assist the school's strategic missions, in particular maintaining accessibility for students.

"We have to make sure that college remains affordable and accessible to anyone who wants to commit themselves to higher education," he said.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

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