Even before the class of 2020 began pulling into the Blooming Prairie High School parking lot, city residents were getting ready for the parade set to follow Sunday morning's commencement.
Camping chairs were lined up along the curb and yards were decorated with balloons and signs congratulating this year's 50 graduating seniors. Although the district couldn’t host a traditional ceremony this year due to the ongoing pandemic, the town was ready and excited for the far-from-typical event.
Students seemed cheerful as well, despite the many setbacks they’ve faced since leaving the building in March. As cars pulled in at their allotted time, they were directed to spots spaced out through the school’s lot. With sunshine and warm weather, students sat on top of car roofs, perched in truck beds and even showed up in all-terrain vehicles. From afar, they were able to wave, take pictures and talk with friends.
After everyone was in place, with help from district staff and School Board members, a prerecorded ceremony was aired over the radio beginning at 11 a.m. Administrators watched from a stage set up outside the high school entrance, listening as students’ speeches played through car stereos. This year’s valedictorian, Julia Worke, and co-salutatorians, Riauna Bishop and Adam Larson, had prerecorded their addresses. Their speeches were stitched together with words from the staff and ultimately a reading of the graduates’ names, meaning none of the students or families themselves exited their cars during the ceremony.
In addition to the families tuning in from the parking lot, neighbors had also come out to watch from afar — the only technical difficulty being a few lags from different devices all tuning in on either 104.9 FM, Kat Kountry, or the radio station’s website. After the speeches were complete, High School Principal John Worke read the names of this year’s graduates and the cars were directed out of the parking lot and onto the parade route with help from elementary Principal Jacob Schwarz and Superintendent Chris Staloch. In all, the parking lot portion of the ceremony took just over half an hour.
Leaving the school, cars were met by an escort of fire trucks and ambulances, which headed up the parade. Graduates wove up and down almost every street in town, with residents out in most front yards to meet them. Despite missing many more traditional end-of-year milestones, most seniors were all smiles Sunday, waving constantly out of car windows as the community cheered them on.