By Bob Zientara
“Disappointing” may be one of the most accurate terms to describe the COVID-19 lockdown, which has changed the daily living routines for tens of thousands of Barron County residents.
High school seniors and their families are probably among who feel the keenest levels of disappointment, a month into the quarantine.
In the Barron Area School District, cancelled classes were followed by an indefinite postponement of the high school prom, class outings, and numerous other traditions shared by students and the families and friends.
With no end in sight to the coronavirus threat, the biggest item of the senior class calendar is still in doubt – graduation.
It was with those disappointments in mind that community members came together last week to organize a night-time motorcade tribute to the Barron High School Class of 2020.
Starting at 8:20 p.m. Friday, April 10, (the military time of 2020, in honor of the graduating class), the event drew students, family members, Barron Police officers, Barron County Sheriff’s deputies, Barron-Maple Grove firefighters, and a host of vehicles to the high school parking lot.
There, beneath the lights of the BHS football field, the motorcade processed around the parking area as the students – while keeping their social distance from one another – rode in family cars and trucks as the guests of honor.
Diane Tremblay, Barron Area School District administrator, said the idea for the event began germinating when she and Student Senate president Michael Nichols learned about how the 2020 tribute was being organized nationwide.
The planning “began with a Zoom meeting with our administrative team and our supervisors,” Tremblay said in a weekend email to the News-Shield.
“From there, it was simple phone calls! Our community comes together very quickly and seamlessly.”
With the help of facilities director Terry Poulter, the parking lot, athletic field and BHS mascot Barron Bear were all alight when the event began at 8:20 p.m. Friday.
Tremblay estimated the total turnout at about 500 people, all told.
Among the participants was Class of 2020 member Faith Hanson, daughter of local residents Amy and Tim Hanson.
On her Facebook page, Amy Hanson noted that during the parade around the lot, the loudspeakers were turned up to blare out “Down With the Sickness,” a hit released by the Chicago-based heavy metal group in 2000.
“She thinks about one-fourth of her classmates were there,” Faith’s mother said in a social media message. “But it sure seemed like more to me.”
According to Amy, Faith said “the hardest part … is not being able to get together with her friends and not knowing when she will be able to. She said all the kids who were very into school activities and were looking forward to spring sports.”
Faith’s mother said she and Tim will hold a graduation party for their daughter at some point in the future.
In the meantime, the school district staff is doing what it can to rescue what has been an unexpectedly difficult spring, Tremblay added in her message.
The district “will make every effort to hold our normal annual celebrations, but this event was just a safe and fun opportunity to pay tribute to our Class of 2020, who clearly are missing out on the end of their senior year with this COVID-19 crisis,” she said.
“They deserved some fun and it was awesome to see their smiles and waves through car/truck windows.”
While prom and graduation are (indefinitely) postponed, “our hope is to hold (those) events and, potentially, have some fun scrimmages and things leading up to the Grand Finale of Commencement,” Tremblay added.