COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON
Abigail Lemacks (left) and Elliott Weed (right) wave to the crowd during Monday’s Three Rivers High School Senior Parade.
COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON
A group of Three Rivers High School seniors, including Caydence Kinney (left) ride through Monday’s TRHS Senior Parade on a trolley float one of her cousins volunteered for the parade.
By Robert Tomlinson
THREE RIVERS — Parents, community members and teachers lined the streets around Three Rivers Monday night for what has become a highly-anticipated rite of passage for Three Rivers High School students.
A vast majority of TRHS seniors participated in Monday’s fourth annual Senior Parade for the Class of 2023. Seniors rode in vehicles around the city, including through downtown Three Rivers, as a way to celebrate their impending graduation Thursday.
“It’s something the community has really embraced, and the seniors are excited about it,” TRHS Principal Carrie Balk said.
Originally devised by the officers of the Class of 2020 as a way to send off the students during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has since grown into something many students anticipate at the end of the school year. So much so, that by the time vehicles were supposed to start lining up at 5:15 p.m. at the student parking lot, almost all of the vehicles that were in the parade had arrived, and students were mingling with each other in the lot.
Once they left the lot, the seniors were escorted by the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department, Three Rivers Police Department, Three Rivers Fire Department and the Fabius-Park Fire Department. They made their way from Sixth Avenue to East M-60, then made a left onto Hoffman Road, followed by a left turn onto Main Street, making their way through downtown, then turning left onto East Michigan Avenue and back to the high school.
Onlookers cheered on the students as they passed by, with a few pockets gathered on Hoffman Street and the majority gathered along Main Street. A couple of students even got hugs from paradegoers, and some students tossed candy to any children that may have been in attendance.
Many of the vehicles in the parade were adorned with different kinds of flair, some with “Class of 2023,” some adorned with posters with names on them, some had where their college destination would be, while some went all out with paint, fringe, balloons, streamers, and other ways to show their Wildcat spirit.
Some even went all-out with their vehicle of choice for the parade. Senior Caydence Kinney, for example, borrowed a homemade trolley float, which was pulled along the parade route by a pickup truck, and filled with most of her friends from the senior class.
“I have an amazing cousin who volunteered – or, I asked and he volunteered it for me, so I’m thankful for that,” Kinney said. “I wanted to spend this with my friends, so I wanted to have something bigger than my truck to house them all.”
Another senior, Jonathan Slack, rode in a 1967 Volkswagen dune buggy driven by his dad, something he said was “pretty cool” to ride in the parade on. He said being a participant in the parade was something he was looking forward to, and being able to ride in the dune buggy.
“It’s pretty good, because I’m graduating and I made it through the year, and I get to use this old thing,” Slack said.
Many of the seniors in the parade agreed that the parade was something they were looking forward to, with some saying it symbolized a lot for them.
“We’re graduating, this is part of it, this is almost to the end. It’s a rite of passage,” Adriana Coles said. “Plus, our whole community is just supporting us. Every year, I came to the senior parade, and I’ve always seen people getting their candy, yelling out, seeing people they know. And to finally experience it myself, man, it feels good.”
“This is like a step to getting our freedom,” Kayla Caruthers said.
“It makes me feel like I accomplished something,” Andrew Brown said. “It’s like, I do so much, play basketball and sports, and now I actually get to be noticed now for something different. It’s huge, because I never thought I would make it, but it’s just hard work and dedication.”
“I feel like it’s kind of like the final moments in your community, seeing them all cheer you on because you’re about to head off to wherever you’re going,” Abigail Lemacks said.
Balk said seeing the parade become a tradition among not just the students, but the community, has been a treat to see.
“I think it’s getting better and better every year,” Balk said. “The first year, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but we have a pretty good plan now, and it goes smooth. I think the community’s pretty aware now that we’re doing this, and we definitely got the information out there.”
Overall, Balk said the parade is something special for the students.
“Just looking around, none of them have to be here, but they all are,” Balk said. “Our community has seen these students grow up here. As we’re driving along, we see kindergarten teachers, grandparents, people who own the downtown businesses, so some of their colleagues, bosses and future employers. I just think it’s neat to see these kids who most of them started in our community when they were born, and now they’re 18 and ready to head off to their next adventure.”
Students said they were ready for their next chapter, starting with the parade.
“I’m very excited for the next chapter and graduating high school. It’s definitely sad to leave something you’ve always known, but now you kind of get to progress,” Lemacks said. “This is a great way to go out; I’m really glad they started doing this.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org