Local communities hosting graduation parades
By Rich Palzewic
BROWN COUNTY – With the COVID-19 pandemic creating an uncertain future and not allowing in-person graduation ceremonies for the time being, community members are taking matters into their own hands with parades.
Parents from at least two local high schools – Ashwaubenon and Bay Port – are planning graduation parades to honor their graduating seniors.
Ashwaubenon and Bay Port are holding their parades Sunday, June 7, and Saturday, June 13, respectively.
“My daughter Grace is a senior, and it gave my husband and me the idea to plan something like this,” said Amy DeGroot, coordinator for the Ashwaubenon parade, which begins at 4:15 p.m. at Nativity of Our Lord Parish on Oneida Street. “It was originally scheduled to begin/end at Ashwaubomay Memorial Park, but after meeting with the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Department, we decided to change the route to make it as safe as possible for everyone involved.”
DeGroot said the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Department has been supportive.
“The new chief, Brian Uhl, has been proactive in showing his support,” said DeGroot. “He also has a graduating senior from his home town.”
After leaving the church, vehicles will proceed west on Cormier Road before eventually ending back at the church.
“The event is not affiliated with Ashwaubenon High School and is sponsored by the graduating seniors’ parents,” DeGroot said. “I know the high school’s hands are tied a bit, but we want to make memories for the kids. We don’t want the seniors to think about the things taken away from them. We want them to remember what was done for them.”
DeGroot encourages graduates to wear their caps and gowns and remain in their vehicles at all times.
“We encourage family, friends and community members to line the parade route, cheer and follow social-distancing guidelines,” she said.
DeGroot said she hasn’t heard of any other local high schools besides Ashwaubenon and Bay Port planning parades.
“A parent from another local high school commented on our Facebook post and was wondering why their high school couldn’t do this,” she said. “I said, ‘This is not affiliated with the school, so if you want something planned, you have to do it yourself.’ It wasn’t an easy thing to coordinate, but it can be done.”
Ellen Verlanic, one of the main coordinators for the Bay Port parade, Pirates Setting Sail, has a son, Call, who will be heading to college in North Carolina this fall.
“It’s a way to honor the graduating seniors because we all feel sad for them,” she said. “We want to make it special for them, because they can’t have a graduation ceremony right now at school.”
Bay Port’s parade, which is not affiliated with the Howard-Suamico School District, will begin at 10 a.m. at the Green Bay Community Church on Cardinal Lane in Howard.
From there, the route will pass by the high school and eventually end at the Nouryon Sports Complex.
“We are asking community members to show their support for the seniors by staying on the sidewalks along the route,” Verlanic said. “We are doing our best to abide by the Brown County Health & Human Services Department guidelines. We want this to be a safe event.”
Face masks and social distancing are being encouraged, and seniors should wear their caps and gowns and decorate their vehicles.
The rain date for Bay Port’s parade is 10 a.m. Sunday, June 14.
The school’s virtual graduation ceremony will be 2 p.m. Sunday, June 7.
During the week after the virtual ceremony, seniors can visit local businesses, which will provide offers of support.
“It’s about bringing the community together again,” Verlanic said. “Many businesses feel bad for the seniors and are offering discounts to them, so in turn, it’s a great opportunity to bring businesses some support as well. We can help each other.”
For more information, visit piratessettingsail.weebly.com.