Approximately 1,600 graduate and professional school students camped out in the Blue Zone parking lot this weekend for the chance to win season tickets for Duke men's basketball.

The annual campout—organized by the Basketball Committee of the Graduate and Professional Student Council—is the largest gathering of graduate and professional students each year and allows students to enter into a lottery to purchase season passes to all home games for $300, said Abbe LaBella, president of GPSC. She added via email that 725 passes were eventually sold. The campout also offered a rare opportunity for students from diverse academic and professional backgrounds to bond and interact, she noted.

“Our community does rally around basketball,” LaBella said.

This year's campout started at 8:30 p.m. Friday and lasted until the final check-in at 7:00 a.m. Sunday, at which point the lottery was conducted. More than 50 random check-ins were conducted during the course of the weekend, LaBella said, adding that campers were only allowed to miss one before they were disqualified.

Due to the randomness of the check-in times—which could be anywhere from 10 to 90 minutes apart—most students stayed in Blue Zone for the majority of the weekend, said Joshua Fries, a first-year student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

Despite the strict campout rules, there were exemptions available allowing students to miss check-ins for either important academic reasons or for GPSC-sponsored community service activities.

One such activity involved visiting the Al Buehler Trail in the Duke Forest and getting rid of invasive species, said Jennifer Floyd, a second-year student in the School of Nursing.

“We got two hours to go and take a shower and be away from this crazy environment for a little bit,” she said.

In addition to the service activities, GPSC sponsored cornhole tournaments, trivia contests and a carnival to help students mingle with each other outside their respective tents. Heavy rain Saturday caused the carnival to be cut short.

Students’ primary complaint with the event was that opportunities to sleep were few and far between, especially when “obnoxious people at five in the morning won’t shut up,” Floyd said.

LaBella noted that campout looked somewhat different this year, as this was the first year GPSC scanned students’ wristbands during the check-in process.

Although scanning sped up the process and reduced wait times, the wristbands had a tendency to wear off and become unreadable to the scanners, forcing students to get new ones, LaBella said. She added that GPSC's Basketball Committee will look into getting more durable wristbands for next year.

One of the unique highlights of the event was getting to greet Duke’s football team returning home after its 44-3 victory at Army Saturday, LaBella said.

“It was really cool to have football school spirit during the basketball campout, so I hope the football team appreciated our school spirit,” she said. 

The Chronicle spoke to LaBella via phone and via email.