TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It was not the graduation they had originally pictured, but it was still one for the books.
Sunday night, a car parade rolled through a racetrack in south Tucson, honoring Vail’s largest graduating class of 2020. It capped off a weekend of celebrating the 380 plus Cienega High School seniors, following a virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday.
“It’s fun, it’s different … I kind of like it,” said Dorian Escalante, a Cienega senior.
Escalante says classmates nicknamed him “bird man” because of his love for bird watching, so he sported a graduation cap with two plastic birds clipped onto it. Instead of walking across a stage like the classes before, Escalante was perched on top of a vehicle, flying on cloud nine.
“I didn’t honestly think I would make it through high school because I just struggle with tough things,” he said. “But hey, I made it through high school so I’m that tough.”
“His dad and I are so proud, his pap is proud,” said Glenda Voyles, Escalante’s mother. “It’s just really, really neat. We are excited [for the parade].”
It took a team of parent and teacher volunteers to put on the 2020 Vail Seniors Graduation Parade at the Tucson Dragway.
“I think we all needed to grieve a little bit at first and be sad about it,” said Kary Aros, the coordinator of the parade. “But then we had to flip it around and say, ‘What do we have control over, what can we do for our seniors?’”
Organizers say accomplishing this safely was a top priority.
“There’s a full process. We have through Pima County, through the CDC,” said Matt Deyoung, the track manager at the Tucson Dragway. “Bathrooms and stuff are washed every two hours, that’s their requirements. We have masks and gloves for staff if they choose.”
Deyoung says vehicles parked along the parade route were spaced 6 feet apart. Students in the parade were told not to leave their vehicles, and deputies were monitoring the situation.
Even with the restrictions, it was all music, laughter, smiles, cheers, and tears.
“If you really think about it, we are special, we are unique,” said Escalante. “We are that class that pushed through the pandemic and I think it’s something to celebrate even more in a way.”
On Monday, May 18th, Empire, VAHS and VIC seniors will take part in a car parade at the at the Tucson Dragway, followed by Andrada and Pantano seniors on Tuesday, May 19th. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.