Thirty years ago, teenagers from all across the region came to Paris to cruise the main drag through town. From Walmart to Eddy's, loop through Town and Country, and do it again and again. Gas was cheap and cell phones weren't around, so you met your friends out in the community.
With the pandemic wreaking havoc on the plans of the graduating class of 2020, schools and communities are changing up how things are being done. Many traditional elements are simply not feasible or permissible. The formal graduation has been pushed back till at least July. Paris schools, in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and other community members, put together the Senior Cruise Night.
There were a lot of details to figure out, and Tonya Baumgartner from the Chamber of commerce fielded questions all week as the collaboration to social distance and yet celebrate the graduates took shape. The students also came up with the idea to all lead off together from Cloyes Gear together, so the Paris Fire Department and the Logan County Sheriff's office joined in to lead them through town.
Before it was even dark, the streets and parking lots were lined with family clusters waiting to honor the graduates as they made their way through town. Promptly at 8 p.m. the night started. Music and messages of congratulations filled the air around the town square as KDYN came to town and designated the time specifically for Paris.
It was part parade and part old-fashioned cruise night as the decorated cars filled with graduates made their rounds. At the Chamber of Commerce lot, Amy Trusty Mini Storage had drinks for the students and Edward Jones provided them pizza. From one end of town to the other, signs lined lawns and businesses donated from Castle Graphics and personalized for each graduate. Baumgartner stated, "I was overwhelmed by the support of the community and so happy for the kids to have this lifetime memory!"
At 8:20 p.m. (20:20 Military time) horns honked 20 times along the route to honor graduates. The Care Flight helicopter made several sweeps over the strip as people cheered from parking lots and sidewalks.
For the parents, many drew on strong memories of their teen years in Paris and the joy of seeing their kids being honored while enjoying a little bit of the old school fun. Briar Howard, a graduate this year, waved and smiled, even dancing a bit in the back of the Jeep as his family drove through town. His expression summed up how an entire community felt. His mom and dad, both Paris graduates, had driven that route many times before.
One strong theme that came from the evening is that the Class of 2020 has very likely started a new tradition for Paris graduates. The cruise night was a success on many different levels, celebrating graduates, honoring an old tradition, and helping a community that has been sequestered start to find some sense of normalcy, if even for one evening.
Eddy's may be gone now. Town and Country is now Elmer's, another business that supports the schools. The landmarks have changed, but the community is still the same. Still strong. Paris came together, just as it did a generation ago, to see students cruise into the next chapter of their life.