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MIT parade promises to be quite the sight

This weekend’s parade will celebrate the 100th anniversary of MIT’s move to Cambridge. Above, the formal dedication ceremony for the new campus in 1916. MIT Museum

Oliver Smoot is coming back to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this week — but this time, he won’t be used to measure the length of the Harvard Bridge.

Instead, Smoot, the MIT alum whose name is synonymous with the units of measurement that mark the span, commonly referred to as the Mass. Ave. Bridge, will serve as the grand marshal of a rambunctious parade celebrating the school’s historic move from Boston to Cambridge 100 years ago.

“Crossing the Charles,” which is part of the school’s “Moving Day at MIT” extravaganza, will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday, on the Boston side of the river. The Smoot-led procession will show off 50 boats, floats, and vehicles designed and built by students, faculty, staff, and graduates as they travel to MIT’s Cambridge headquarters.


“The procession will travel over land and water, showcasing MIT’s storied ingenuity with animatronics, robots, antique and concept cars, salsa dancers, and much more,” according to school officials.

Costumes and props are encouraged, they said.

In 1916, alumni from across the world crowded the shores of the Charles River to watch as the school shipped its charter on a Venetian-style barge from Boston to Cambridge to officially mark the school’s move to its new campus from Copley Square.

School officials hope to recapture the spirit of that momentous event during this Saturday’s festivities.

“Anyone who shows up to watch, I assure you it will be unlike anything you have ever seen before,” John Ochsendorf, chairman of “Moving Day at MIT,” told the Globe when plans were first announced.

A team of judges will award points to participants who have come up with the most inventive way to cross the bridge or the water. Points will be given based on engineering designs, speed, aesthetic and humor.


One key criterion will be whether participants give people a sense of “only at MIT,” according to a statement from the school.

The top four winners will be recognized at a pageant later that night, the school said.

MIT will be commemorating its historic move through June, with a series of other events.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.