Crowds began to form on Massachusetts Avenue around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5, drawn to the sound of the Harvard University Band warming up for the Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ 72nd Woman of the Year Parade. Cheers arose when members of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals came running in a sea of baby bonnets, wigs, and frills galore — a sign that Jennifer Garner was near.
Hasty Pudding Theatricals has awarded the annual title of Woman of the Year to performers since 1951, recognizing those who have made significant contributions to the world of entertainment. Garner was selected this year for her talents as an actress, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. Garner’s “Juno” co-star Jason Bateman was named Hasty Pudding’s 2022 Man of the Year to celebrate his impact in television and film.
For the first time in Hasty Pudding history, the 2022 Woman of the Year celebrations coincided with opening night of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals’ new production, “Ship Happens.” This was also the first Woman of the Year Parade to be held since the onset of the pandemic; Viola Davis, the 71st recipient, was honored with a short virtual roast in 2021. Among the hundreds that braved the 23-degree weather to watch, the anticipation was palpable.
“I’ve seen pictures of past parades, but I’m so excited to see it in person,” said observer Emily Parke ‘24.
What followed was described by Boston resident Cyrus H. Miceli as both “chaotic and entertaining.” Garner rode in a red Bentley convertible, accompanied by a feather-clad and bonnet-donning Pudding cast member on either side. Onlookers in the street scrambled over snow banks to get better views and photo angles of the star. Lucky residents of Fairfax Hall caught Garner’s attention with a plush figure that they threw from their dorm room window. Fans shouted “We love you!” and “Jennifer, you’re so beautiful!” from the sidelines. Another held a “13 Going on 30”-inspired poster. The crowd joined the flow of the parade, walking and dancing with members of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals from the Inn at Harvard to the end of the 40-minute route at Farkas Hall.
For some, the event was a pleasant surprise.
“We stumbled across this one,” said Sierra M. Chiao, a Wellesley student. “We weren’t expecting to see Jennifer Garner — but what a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon! ‘13 Going on 30’ is a cultural masterpiece.”
Later that evening, Garner received her Pudding Pot at a celebratory roast held at Farkas Hall. The roast was written by Maureen Clare ‘23-24 and former Arts Chair Kalos K. Chu ‘22-23 and delivered by Molly Chiang ‘23 and Lucy Goldfarb ‘23. Clare and Chu, however, were presented with a challenge: How could anyone ridicule this award-winning actress, Save the Children Trustee, and co-founder of Once Upon a Farm, an organic food company intent on providing children with nutritious and sustainable snacks?
The solution? Don’t roast her.
While Garner sat beaming in a plush white chair, Chiang and Goldfarb voiced their frustrations about not being able to come up with hard-hitting insults. The two joked that the worst they could think of was to say that the Instagram videos of Garner’s dogs are “only mildly entertaining.” As an alternative, Chiang and Goldfarb asked Garner to play a game with rules inspired by her recent film “Yes Day” — she had to say yes to everything they asked, starting with a request for the story of her first kiss.
Garner proceeded to enjoy the shenanigans, pretending to play “Sally the Sexy Saxophone” while an orchestra member produced sounds from the pit. Isabella E. Peña ‘23-24 made an appearance as Lucifer Garner, Garner’s evil twin who claims to be the reason she’s as “wholesome as she is.” Garner was told to banish Peña from the stage by dumping packets of Once Upon a Farm’s baby food over her head, resulting in uproarious laughter from the crowd.
Her final onstage encounter was with “13 Going on 30” mean girl Tom-Tom, played by Kyra Siegal ‘25. Siegal threw glitter at Garner, turning her into a thirteen-year-old and disqualifying her from receiving the Pudding Pot. Only after performing her classic dance to “Thriller” from the film was Garner able to return to adulthood and receive her award.
“I guarantee my day was better than yours,” said Garner after receiving the Pudding Pot, giving it a kiss.
At a press conference after the roast, Garner reflected on a day well spent with members of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals.
“The day has been one surprise and one total delight after another. I got a tour this morning, I was serenaded by the Krokodiloes, which I loved,” said Garner. “I just have grown very attached to this group of kids in one day, and so that was really special.”
Garner also had a message for future honorees. “Get ready to have a blast. I mean, what could I tell them? Stay home and send me instead,” she said.
—Staff writer Nina M. Foster can be reached at email@example.com.