Pequot Lakes High School’s 126 seniors have their caps and gowns, along with strict instructions regarding their livestream mobile graduation ceremony that will take place Friday, May 22.

The event will feature a parade of cars carrying seniors through downtown starting at 5:45 p.m., followed by a ceremony starting at 6:45 p.m. in the high school parking lot, where seniors will exit their cars one by one to receive their diplomas.

“While you have sacrificed so much your senior year, we have planned this event to ensure you are able to capture the crowning moment of becoming a Patriot alumni,” High School Principal Aaron Nelson wrote in an email to seniors.

The mobile graduation ceremony is in response to the COVID-19 situation and resulting Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education guidelines for a live graduation event. It encompasses social distancing guidelines.

“The most important guideline is that attendees must remain in their vehicle for the duration of the event,” Nelson wrote. “The only people allowed to leave their vehicle is the graduate at the direction of school officials.”

The intent of the parade is to spread people out so they can safely distance while honoring the graduates, Superintendent Chris Lindholm said in an email. Graduates’ families and friends are encouraged to watch the parade and then return home to watch the ceremony via the district’s livestream and/or listen to it on KLKS 100.1 or KUAL 103.5 FM radio stations. The link to the livestream is on the district website.

The parade will begin in the school parking lot and will proceed on a route along South Oak Street to Brown Street, Front Street, Sibley Street, Government Drive, Woodman Street and Patriot Avenue South, returning to the school along Lake Street.

Parking lot attendants will direct cars to specific parking spots.

A stage will be set up outside the school’s athletic complex building. Five cars at a time will line up, and when a graduate’s name is called he or she will walk up to receive their diploma and the family car will move forward for a photo. The graduate will then walk to a photo backdrop for a professional photo, and the family car will also move forward to be able to capture this moment.

Each graduate will then receive a gift from the Grad Blast Committee before returning to their car and their assigned parking spot.

The MDH and MDE directive forbids the traditional cap toss at the end of the ceremony, so those in vehicles are encouraged to honk horns and flash lights to celebrate the graduates when the class of 2020 is presented.

Because crowds can’t gather, graduates must remain in their cars and will then have to leave the parking lot. The ceremony is expected to end at 8:15 p.m. There will be no public toilets available.

No one can attend graduation outside of a vehicle. There will be parking spots available for the public to attend the ceremony in a vehicle. No recreational vehicles, motorhomes, trailers, all-terrain vehicles or unusually large vehicles will be allowed.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath) will not be permitted to attend.

“As always, please be safe as you enjoy this great event,” Nelson wrote. “I trust that you will find the night a special one in the history of graduation events in Pequot Lakes High School history and we look forward to celebrating this moment with you and your family.”

Watch or listen

The Pequot Lakes High School ceremony will be livestreamed on the school website main page - go to www.isd186.org and click on “Livestream” on the bottom left side - and on KLKS and KUAL websites.

The entire ceremony will be broadcast on KLKS 100.1 and KUAL 103.5 FM radio stations and will include details each graduate shared on their biographical information form.

Grad Blast

The COVID-19 situation also resulted in the 30th annual Grad Blast celebration for graduates being canceled.

However, the Grad Blast Committee will still give each graduate a gift valued at more than $50.

“Sadly, this was to be our 30-year celebration of Grad Blast, and now after all the planning we aren't able to hold the event,” Grad Blast Committee Chair Andrea Nelson said in an email.

“When we found out we wouldn't be able to have Grad Blast, we really wanted to do something for the seniors, and giving them the gifts we had already purchased seemed like the best option,” she wrote. “We are very organized and had all the individual gifts purchased before the pandemic hit.”

The committee is taking a financial hit by giving away $6,300-plus in gifts while not taking in any funds for next year. Normally, students who attend Grad Blast pay $25 each to cover the cost of food, activities and entertainment. That also gives the committee funds to carry over for the next year.

“I have a feeling that donations next year might be low due to the effects of COVID-19,” Andrea Nelson wrote.

Other graduations

  • Pine River-Backus High School: A mobile graduation ceremony will be at 7 p.m. Friday, May 29, in the high school parking lot followed by a parade through town. The ceremony will be livestreamed and broadcast on a radio station. Look for more information in the May 28 Echo Journal.

  • Crosslake Community School: A graduation ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, May 29, over Facebook Live.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.