Two parades honor two graduating classes

Suzette Lowe

In 2020, graduating seniors from Ripley and Ravenswood High Schools were not going to have a traditional graduation ceremony. Due to the health pandemic, everything was in turmoil and formal recognition of the students was unlikely to happen.

That situation did not sit well with Mayor Carolyn Rader of Ripley and principal Luke Swiney of Ravenswood High.

“With everything in question, I just felt led to do something for these kids who had lost so much of one of their most memorable years,” said Rader. “So, we came up with a parade.”

Swiney and his team had the same idea.

“We knew we wanted to honor these students somehow,” he said. “This was a good way to have fun and recognize their success.”

Thinking that this might be a one-time event, both Swiney and Rader said the response changed their minds.

“It was so enthusiastically received,” Swiney said. “We realized that it could serve as a commemorative event each year, so I’m hoping that it will continue as a tradition.”

What Rader likes most about the event is that it celebrates all the students, that all are equal in this parade.

“No one is king or queen, no princesses or star athletes,” she said. “Every one of them is the center of attention. Many last year were amazed to get those cheers.”

For the class of 2021, the celebration was much appreciated.

“This year was hard because you never knew what was happening from one day to the next,” said Hallie Bigley, Ravenswood High senior. “I’ve made great memories and friends at Ravenswood High. This parade was like the cherry on tope of a delicious dessert.”

Parents were grateful to see their children being supported so visibly.

“I love that Ravenswood High continued the parade for this class,” commented April Smithson. “These seniors have had such a strange year, missing out on many meaningful events.”

For some parents, the parade was bittersweet.

“One of my twins, Lauren, was driven by her dad,” said Lesley Roush whose daughters graduated from Ripley High. “It was so wonderful to see her and her siblings waving to everyone they passed. But graduating, leaving home, going to college almost does not seem real. I don’t think the reality has totally sunk in.”

With all the balloons, streamers, signs, waves and smiles being seen along the parade route, for Noah Smithson, Ravenswood High graduate, it provided a sense of satisfaction.

“It was good to see the community come out for our graduating class,” he said. “With this year being abnormal, it was great to feel semi-normal with our town coming out to celebrate.”