The signs are all around. Local hotels are full, restaurants are packed and city streets seem a bit busier. It can only mean one thing: It's graduation time.
Nearly 2,100 students from Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods will receive diplomas Saturday, and friends and family members are flocking to the area to celebrate with them.
"This is a very busy time for the city, and all hotels, probably countywide, are full," said Sandy Scott, executive director for the Arcata Chamber of Commerce. "It's also a fun time because we get to see a lot of people come into the Welcome Center looking for maps, souvenirs and postcards, the usual. All these people coming in will absolutely bring a huge boost to the economy because of the hotel and other taxes they pay while they're here."
Howard Johnson Express General Manager Raxa Patel said people started booking rooms months ago.
"Everyone always gets sold out, and this time of year always brings in good revenue," Patel said. "If tourists are visiting right now, they may not know it's graduation and might have difficulty finding a room. But the kids knew when graduation was and would've told their family and friends months ago."
Scott added that those who haven't booked a room yet should look into websites like Airbnb, which has a list of people who rent out rooms in their homes.
HSU spokesman Jarad Petroske said this year's graduation ceremony is the culmination of the campus' Centennial Celebration, and this class – a total of 2,000 receiving degrees, but only 1,500 of whom are walking – has been dubbed "The New Century Class."
"HSU has prepared a special commemorative stamp and postmark to celebrate the centennial year," Petroske said. "Representatives from the Arcata Post Office will be on hand all day selling postcards with the stamp."
CR spokesman Paul DeMark said the school is expecting a lot of people to come out and support the many graduates from the Eureka, Del Norte and Mendocino campuses – with a total of 512 associate degrees and certificates of completion being awarded.
"There are a lot of students from out of the area, so we know that a lot of people – friends, parents, other family members – will be coming out to support them," DeMark said. "The CR graduation is meant to compliment the HSU graduation because they're on the same day, and I'm sure that will bring an increase to businesses, hotels and restaurants."
Arcata Police Department Sgt. Robert Martinez said it will be business as usual for the city this weekend, with no special deployment or patrol plans.
"It will be a little different this year because we're sending a couple officers to work on campus (at HSU) and assist with traffic and parking control or any service calls that might come in," Martinez said. "There typically aren't a lot of service calls this time of year because people are in good spirits because they're going home, are done with school and are graduating, and there seems to be a sense of accomplishment."
Martinez added that he's excited about the Arcata Farmers' Market because the weather has been so nice.
"There will be a lot of folks coming from out of town and with the nice weather, they will be able to see Arcata in all its glory," Martinez said.
With activities like the farmers' market, Scott said the Welcome Center – which is overseen by the chamber – is directly impacted by the increase in business.
"We appreciate the chamber's relationship with HSU and what the campus does for the economy and the influx of business that comes in this time of year," Scott said.
Contact Melissa Simon at 441-0508.
When: Saturday at 8:30 a.m., 12 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Where: Redwood Bowl, Union Street, Arcata
College of the Redwoods graduation
When: Eureka campus gymnasium, Saturday at 11 a.m.