Bonduel grads ‘Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’

High school commencement held at outdoor theater
Carol Ryczek

BONDUEL — Traditional graduation exercises often feature a solemn rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The playlist for the Bonduel’s socially-distant graduation event on May 22 featured a different kind of classic.

“Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” a 1980 Police hit, and Bob Seger’s 1973 classic, “Turn the Page,” along with a locally-produced tribute to Bonduel, were among the songs playing as graduates and their families drove into the Shawano Moonlight Outdoor Theater to see a video version of high school commencement.

Graduation night started at the Bonduel fire station. Bonduel fire trucks led a parade of student vehicles past the school, where posters honoring the graduates were displayed on the football field fence. As they drove through downtown Bonduel, well-wishers and Bonduel alumni waved banners and sprayed color bombs and confetti.

The parade wound its way to the outdoor theater, where students received a yellow rose and all attendees received a box of popcorn.

Bonduel faculty handed out programs and directed cars to parking places. Principal Tim Mayer welcomed each car and alerted them to the special rules for the night: bathroom closed during the presentation; stay in individual cars.

The outdoor theater took on its own personality Friday night. Pickup trucks decorated with banners and balloons were everywhere; a 1975 Pontiac Grand Am convertible had a gold “2020” on its hood and was big enough to hold graduate Lily Martin and six supporters. Stuffed animals played digital versions of the song, “Shout.” Prior to the program, the sound system played an assortment of COVID-19 and graduation-inspired songs.

Students obeyed the “stay in your car” rule, though some interpreted that to mean “on top of your car,” until they were asked to climb inside for the start of the video.

Once the cars were in place and the light faded, the presentation started with Caleb Dunst singing the national anthem. The video then took a tour of the school, then offered congratulations by Mayer, district and school board representatives, valedictorian Alexia Folkman and salutatorian Colton Anderson.

Instead of applause, cars and trucks honked approval after each presentation.

The graduates, most of whom received their diplomas individually at the school, recounted their favorite high school memory and moved the tassel on their cap from right to left.

Unusual though it was, the event drew praise from both parents and students.

Jenny Wilcox, mother of graduate Cade Wilcox, said the school found a way to make “the best of a bad situation.”

It has been a while since the students have been together in school, she noted, and it seemed that school actually ended many weeks ago.

“We’re hoping this will promote some nostalgia for the students,” she said.

“For some, they know for sure it will be the last time they see each other,” she said.

Cade Wilcox’s godmother, Melissa Eckberg, agreed.

“I give the school a lot of credit for doing this,” she said.

Colton Rauterkus, in his car, agreed, saying he really enjoyed the event.

Other students responded with a “thumbs up.”

That may be why R.E.M.’s 1987 single, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” made it onto the evening’s playlist. The complete title is actually “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”