NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Pedestrians and motorists alike can expect crowded downtown streets and traffic delays the weekend of May 12 through 15 as Rutgers University confers degrees on a record number of graduates.

And while the first ever university-wide commencement ceremony will be held across the Raritan River at Rutgers Stadium on the Busch campus in Piscataway on Sunday, May 15, smaller convocations and receptions will bring thousands into the city throughout the weekend.

For businesses in the city, the influx of visitors each year bring a bump in register receipts, although not quite comparable to such revenue-generating observances as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

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Still, hotels, restaurants and even such establishments as floral shops will benefit from the university’s annual rite of passage.

“May is a very good time of year for us,” said Anthony Tola, owner of The Old Bay restaurant, which has served Cajun and Creole cuisine to graduation visitors to its downtown location on Church Street for some 24 years.

“You do realize it’s taking place,” Barbara Jones, owner of Flowers By Barbara on Courtland Street, said of the Rutgers graduations. “It adds some to the revenue.”

“There is a general increase in business,” said Fawn Stevens, program coordinator for City Market, which represents downtown businesses from Albany Street to Remsen Avenue and Neilson Street to Livingston Avenue.

She noted that many establishments offer promotions during the month for graduates and their families.

A record 12,890 graduates in Rutgers’ Class of 2011 will receive degrees, including some8,634 bachelor degrees, 2,999 master’s degrees and 1,257 doctorates.

Author and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, who taught at Rutgers in 1983-84, will give the keynote address at the university-wide ceremony and will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

The thousands of relatives, friends and well-wishers are expected to draw additional traffic to the city for food and celebrations, but are not expected to paralyze the area since the main events are being held on Sunday, when downtown municipal, state and county offices are closed, officials noted.

Motorists are being advised of possible delays due to heavy traffic on Route 18 around New Brunswick and Piscataway as well as on College Avenue, George Street, River Road, Hoes Lane and the John Lynch and Landing Lane bridges.

Mitchell Karon, executive director of the New Brunswick Parking Authority, noted there will be plenty of free parking downtown at the Ferren and Church Street decks. In addition, street parking will be free at metered spaces for the weekend, he said.

“It really should help that it’s on the weekend,” he said of the graduations’ effect on traffic and parking.

Also on Sunday, May 15, the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences’ convocation is scheduled on the George H. Cook Campus at 2 p.m. Motorists are advised to expect delays on Nichol Avenue, College Farm Road and Ryders Lane and George Street.

The weekend’s events began Thursday, May 12 with the 19th annual Rites of Passage Ceremony for Rutgers’ black and Latino students, held at Kirkpatrick Chapel on Somerset Street.

Convocations will be held for each degree department throughout the New Brunswick campus on Saturday and Sunday. Click here for schedule of times and locations.