Saturdays sunny skies matched the enthusiasm of parents and students going through the time-honored tradition of Move-In Day at USCs Columbia campus.
More than 6,800 students many first-time college students flooded the streets in and around the downtown campus as faculty, staff and volunteers helped smooth the way for this sometimes chaotic, often emotionally charged day.
For USC police, Move-In Day is all part of the job. Sgt. Kenneth Adams was out telling students about USCs bicycle registration.
Its free, he told one student as he sat perched atop his own bicycle. And I can do it right on the spot.
Adams and fellow officer Lt. Teena Gooding were out talking to students, answering questions from parents and generally making their presence known.
This is my 10th year doing this, Gooding said. And I cant remember a more smoother move-in.
Adams and Gooding said that may be because 30 to 40 percent of the universitys on-campus population moved in the day before something thats new for USC.
Coupled with staggered move-in times throughout the day, the two said it has made a noticeable difference in how smoothly everything went and in the numbers of people they were seeing on the campus and in the surrounding areas Saturday.
And I think parents are just getting better at it, too, Gooding said.
Done and done. Thats what Diane and Lou Raimondo were saying after they had spent the morning moving their daughter, Amy Raimondo, into her dorm.
The two had gotten up at 6 a.m. to drive to Columbia from Lake Wylie, where the family, originally from New Jersey, now live.
All in all, the move-in process had only taken two hours. Now the family was relaxing and having a bite to eat at USCs Grand Marketplace.
It was a very smooth process, said Amys mother.
Theyre very organized here, agreed Amys father.
And while the family was planning to make an extra supply-run to a nearby Target, the Raimondos seemed to be working up to that inevitable moment when they would say goodbye.
This is her time to enjoy herself and meet people, said Lou Raimondo.
Kaitlin Ousley and Lauren Oljar were feeling a little smug. The two had taken advantage of USCs early move-in Friday night and were having a good time people watching and finding their way around campus Saturday morning.
I dont know why more people dont do it, Ousley said. Were kind of laughing at all the chaos.
With their move-in behind them, the two turned their attention to more important matters like entering USCs Cutest Room on Campus contest.
We should get bonus points for having such a small room, Ousley said.
Though the pair had moved in early, they were still getting used to living in one of Prestons stairwell rooms. As they explained, their room is a little smaller than most to accommodate the buildings nearby stairs.
So how small is it?
Well, we have a 12-by-12-foot rug, Oljar said. And that was too big.
Vy Nguyen and Sarah Plantz had never met until Saturday, but both felt like theyd known each other for awhile.
In fact, the two freshmen acted like old friends. They met on the website roomsurf.com, which acts as a matchmaking service for those looking for a college roommate.
After plugging in their information, they found they had almost a 95 to 98 percent compatibility something they say is critical to starting that first year together.
You want someone you can be comfortable with, Nguyen said.
After finding each other and texting all summer, the two found they have a lot in common, including clothes, music and the same taste in popular culture.
And were both night owls, Plantz said.
Nguyen, who is from Indiana, and Plantz, from Tennessee, said they were looking forward to going out and discovering Columbia.
Were in it together, Plantz said.
For Allie Barilla, a freshman from Fort Mill, it was about being prepared. Barilla had packed boxes of her favorite energy bars and other snacks.
A swimmer, Barilla said she didnt think there was anything unusual about all the items, or the boxes of snacks, she had brought.
Its just bedding and pillows and supplies and things like that, Barilla said in an excited voice.
I think she brought too much, said her mother, Kelly Barilla.
Move-In Day is all about the stuff. In the unofficial loading and unloading zone between the Russell House student union and Patterson Hall, stuff was strewn and stacked up and down Bull Street.
Look at all this, said Jan Gosse, from Raleigh, N.C. Gosse was helping her daughter Lauren move in.
It took an SUV and a truck to haul everything that Lauren had with her, but really she wanted her vehicle with her, too.
Jan Gosse said things sure had changed since she went away to Michigan State in the 80s.
I told her when I went to school I had two towels and two washcloths and my suitcase, she said. And that was it!
By mid-morning it was almost a carnival-like atmosphere in front of the Russell House Student Union.
Student groups gave away T-shirts and other freebies. USC athletics staff handed out Gamecock posters and other memorabilia. And USC faculty and other volunteers served up snow cones.
Nearby, a dune buggy yes, a dune buggy drove up and down Greene Street.
Volunteer Joe Hanigosky was fielding questions from parents and guiding foot traffic helping with the Preston dorm.
Hanigosky was one of 10 Preston Ambassadors. The student volunteers, along with about a half-dozen faculty and staff members, were helping to make the move-in experience a little easier for parents and students.
Theyre asking things like, Where do I park my car? or How does this whole process work?Hanigosky said as he stood out in front of Preston one of USCs residential colleges, where students live alongside a live-in faculty member who serves as the colleges principal.
Not only was Hanigosky serving as guide for the day, but at times the rising junior seemed like part counselor, part new best friend.
Sometimes Im just here to entertain the parents while the students are inside doing their thing, he said.
At other times, especially when he saw hovering parents, he had to laugh recalling his own experience with his parents when he moved away from home.
You get a little chuckle out of it because I remember how it was for me, he said. You just say, Take a deep breath, theyll be gone in a little while.
I was excited all week until Sunday, said Jill Zakerski, who was helping her daughter, Sarah, move into her new dorm. Then I started getting a little sad.
But Sarah, a freshman who plans to study social work, had other thoughts.
Im really excited to be starting college and to be out on my own, she said.
The Zakerskis had left Charlotte, N.C. early to drive down for the big day and were among dozens of parents pulling up in front of the Preston dorm in the heart of the USC campus to unload all manner of bags, boxes and clothes Saturday.
As Sarahs father, Dan Zakerski, stood holding a full-length mirror under one arm and a bag in the other, he teased her that she would miss him more than her mother.
But mom quipped, shell probably miss Libby most of all.
Libby is the family dog.