VUHS grads ready for parade

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER Tara (right) and VUHS senior Addie Brooks were among the organizers of a parade to honor the school’s Class of 2020. It is planned for the evening of June 12, immediately after the abbreviated VUHS graduation ceremony.

We know this is not only an event for the seniors. It’s also an event for the community.
— Addie Brooks

VERGENNES — Organizers are working on a parade that will carry the Vergennes Union High School Class of 2020 through many Vergennes neighborhoods after their abbreviated graduation ceremony on Friday, June 12. 
The seniors’ graduation committee and school and local officials intend to put seniors in about 30 cars and one float, with an escort of Addison, Ferrisburgh and Vergennes fire vehicles and Vergennes and possibly Vermont State police.
The parade will follow what VUHS Principal Stephanie Taylor called “a graduation ceremony of sorts” on June 12 at 6 p.m.  
Taylor said graduates will drive up at pre-determined times and walk across an outdoor stage at VUHS to receive their diploma and have a picture taken wearing their gowns. The school is also arranging for RETN community television to create a graduation video including speeches and pictures from the diploma walks. 
Taylor said she and Addison Northwest School District Superintendent Sheila Soule, the only people who will be onstage with the graduates, will be masked, and all will remain at least six feet apart. Meanwhile families will have to remain in their cars. Awards, yearbooks, gowns and other items will be delivered to the graduates before graduation.
Tara Brooks, the ANWSD’s afterschool and summer programs coordinator, said the last hurdle to clear for the parade was either a permit from or an understanding with the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
A move of the planned starting point from the VTrans Park-and-Ride lot in Ferrisburgh to the former Denecker Chevrolet property on Main Street, across from Kennedy Brothers, simplified the permit, Brooks said, by making the parade solely in Vergennes. That change meant organizers now only need a permit to put up road signs warning the road closure, she said. 
“Everyone agrees that we can have a parade, (we’re) just working out the details,” she said early this week.
Brooks said she will post final information on the VUHS Class of 2020 Facebook page as soon as everything is pinned down.
The inclusion of Main Street on the route is important, according to Class of 2020 member and organizer Addie Brooks, Tara Brooks’ daughter. The length of the road through the heart of Vergennes will allow friends and family members of graduates from the other ANWSD towns to find parking and then watch while appropriately socially distanced, she said.  
“That’s part of why we’re using Main Street. That way people can stand pretty far apart in their groups of family members,” Addie Brooks said. 
Plans call for the parade to begin at the Denecker property and head southwest to the intersection of West Main Street to Panton Road. 
From there it would follow a winding path back through city neighborhoods: along West, Main, South Water and South Maple streets to Maple Manor; back via South Maple, Victory and Green streets to Sunset Drive; and from there through Bowman Road to New Haven Road before returning to Main Street and heading back to its starting point.
Seniors can be driven in their own or in family or friends’ vehicles, two or three per car. Several will also sit on a float that will be recycled from the city’s Memorial Day Clang and Bang Parade, when it was used in a tribute to retiring VUHS music teacher Sue O’Daniel. 
The idea for the event came back in March from Tara’s husband and Addie’s father, Josh Brooks, a Vergennes Union Elementary School teacher.
Addie Brooks said seniors were working on alternatives to a traditional graduation ceremony when her phone dinged.
“It was actually my dad who texted me and said, ‘Do a parade,’” she said. 
Now Addie Brooks and the rest of her class hope friends and family members can share in their rite of passage. 
“My grandparents will be able to sit in front of my house and watch, and we’re hoping a lot of other people will be able to have that as well, because we’re going by as many houses as we can,” she said. “We know this is not only an event for the seniors. It’s also an event for the community.”

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