The California community has rallied around California High School's class of 2020 in recent weeks, lending storefront window space in honor of this year's graduates. Before graduation, the community's last observance of "Friday Night Lights" will include one last hurrah for graduating Pintos.
CHS parents have organized a class of 2020 senior parade to precede the final Friday Night Lights of the semester. Schools across the country have flipped on their stadium lights every Friday night since schools were first forced to cancel in-person classes as a show of support for students. California's last edition is set for this Friday, two days before the school's original graduation date, which is now set for May 30.
CHS parent Julie Berendzen, who has been part of a group of parents planning this week's events, said there are a number of things in the works to make the night special. With Moniteau County's stay-home order expired as of the end of the day Sunday, organizers are hoping they're able to pull off a surprise for the conclusion of the night.
"We have a couple of surprises planned for them that we're trying to, for the most part, keep under wraps so they won't be aware of it until Friday night," Berendzen said. "There's some parents that are helping with those, as well."
Berendzen said it was important to senior parents they were able to get the community involved.
"In light of the event, we know that a lot of people who may have shown up for graduation are not going to have that opportunity now," Berendzen said. "So it was our thought if we could find a way to adhere to the social distancing guidelines and still provide a way for the community to maybe get to see the seniors, (maybe) we could do a parade."
All of the class of 2020's seniors have been invited to participate, Berendzen said. State and local law enforcement are set to participate in the parade, along with CHS teachers and administration.
"We felt that all the seniors have had kind of a devastating end of their senior year," Berendzen said. "The teachers and administration have played a big part in their lives, and we wanted to find a way to recognize everything that they have done to take this unprecedented time and make it as smooth as possible."
The parade is set to start at 7:45 p.m. at the Moniteau County Fairgrounds and travel to the high school, where it will end at Riley Field. Upon the parade's arrival, they'll be directed to a tree that has been planted in honor of the senior class, purchased by Project Graduation and planted near the agricultural buildings behind CHS.