OSAWATOMIE — It’s been a difficult final semester for Osawatomie High School seniors, as most of their milestone events have been canceled or delayed until later this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Osawatomie community recently gave the seniors a positive memory they’ll not soon forget.
Residents, parents, teachers, business owners and other community members rallied together Friday, May 1, to transform Osawatomie’s Main Street into a multi-block celebration for the graduating seniors.
The event was called the “OHS Class of 2020 May Day Cruise,” and it was the brainchild of multiple people, including members of a committee led by Osawatomie Partners In Education (PIE) President Ivy Cole, Tammy Booe with the OHS After Prom group and OHS Principal Ardy Dehdasht, among others.
The committee has been using student and parent surveys to figure out new dates for key events for the seniors, and they also wanted to find other ways to recognize them, which spawned the idea of yard signs and a Main Street cruise.
Between 7:30 and 8:40 p.m., Friday, community members and students were encouraged to cruise the Main Street loop and enjoy the signs of support. At 8 p.m., Osawatomie joined other school districts across the country in an effort to light up the night sky by illuminating the lights at the stadium and sports complex for 20 minutes and 20 seconds to honor the class of 2020 and spring sports athletes who lost their seasons.
Storefront windows at downtown businesses like Chris’ Cafe, Mane Drama, First Option Bank and Hanes Florist & Main Street Gifts were decorated with messages of encouragement for the seniors. Signs of support also dotted the lawns of residents up and down Main Street, between Sonic and 12th Street and along 12 Street between Main Street and the sports complex.
Pat’s Signs helped provide the signs, and Cole said the image used on many of the signs had extra special meaning this year because it was originally designed by Osawatomie resident Samantha Branson, who passed away Sunday, April 26, after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
“It seemed like the whole community got involved,” Cole said. “It was so sweet to see families participate.”
Osawatomie High School senior Cody Sloan and sophomore Kaden Fields jammed out to some country music in the bed of a pickup truck during the cruise event, while others took pictures in front of signs at businesses and in front of City Hall.
Some students traveled down to the lit-up stadium to get pictures in front of the scoreboard, which also displayed “20:20.”
Osawatomie High School teachers Clint and Dawn Bailey got out their lawn chairs and signs and waved to seniors during the cruise.
Cole said the event received approval from the school district and local law enforcement officials because participants were asked to practice social distancing and stay in vehicles for a majority of the cruise.
Cole said she was amazed at the response from the community, and as a parent of a graduating senior, she can attest to how much it meant to the students that a group of volunteers turned a simple idea into a special night of recognition.
“Something small turned into something these kids will always remember,” Cole said. “We love these kids.”