Worth a Thousand Words: Remembering years of pomp and circumstance

Prior to the start of the Cambridge-Isanti graduation ceremony last Friday night, I was talking with my cohort at the County NewsReview, John Wagner. Being the new editor at that paper, this was his first experience with covering CIHS’ traditional ceremony, so he was asking what the S.O.P. was. And of course, having covered countless years of graduation programs, I pretty much had the whole thing down pat, and then some.

With the obvious exception of the Class of 2020, C-I’s ceremony has remained relatively static over the years. Even if he really didn’t need it, I provided a summary of what was to be expected, from march-in to Pomp and Circumstance to the recessional, which is accompanied by the band playing the ending music from “Star Wars: A New Hope” (which I love).

In doing so, I naturally started marching down memory lane. Besides talking about the day-long drive-thru ceremony of 2020, I recalled the infamous year the graduating class was more than a little overly rambunctious, smuggling in about a dozen beach balls, which they released one-by-one as the previous ball was confiscated by a teacher. The end result was that ceremony came within seconds of being stopped before a single graduate had the chance to walk across the stage. It also resulted in the discontinuing of the band performing a separate number in the middle of the ceremony. It also brought on the introduction of handing out poppers as a way for graduates to release their pent-up enthusiasm after all the names had been read. Interestingly, this episode is apparently far enough back in history that the poppers, along with the precautionary admonishment for everyone to be on their best behavior were absent this year.

Going back even further, I recall how for many years the ceremony was held outside on the football field. When the district first started that, it had a long string of years where the weather completely cooperated (including the illustrious Class of 1989 — my year). The most outrageous thing to happen that year was someone let off some firecrackers as we were making our way back into the school.

The favorable weather ended with my sister’s class — 1993, where the threat of thunderstorms forced the backup plan of holding it in the elementary (now known as the primary) school gym. This was before air conditioning, so several hundred people were crammed into that relatively small gym space, and despite giant fans positioned at every doorway, the conditions were insufferable.

It was those conditions that prompted then superintendent Dr. Raymond Hoheisel to swear that under his watch, all ceremonies would be done in less than an hour. That oath was passed on to his successors until the class size simply made it impossible to keep. However, the legacy of the promise does live on as even this year’s sizable class was in and out in an hour-and-a-half. 

I find it interesting that I wax nostalgic about these ceremonies, as I’m not exactly sentimental about most high school rites of passage. But I guess that just shows how, even as routine as it may be, there’s something about graduating high school that just sticks with a person. 

BILL STICKELS III is editor of the Isanti-Chisago County Star. He can be reached at 763-689-1181 ext. 107 or editor@countystar.com. 

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