The Oak Harbor police and fire departments, North Whidbey Fire and Rescue and the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Fire Department were on scene at Oak Harbor High School Friday night, but they weren’t responding to a call.
Instead, they turned on their emergency lights to honor the students of the Oak Harbor High School class of 2020, who drove their cars around the school in a mini parade.
Many of the high school’s events and end of year celebrations were cancelled because of the COVID-19 health crisis when Gov. Jay Inslee ordered all schools in the state to close in March. According to Athletic Director Jerrod Fleury, who helped organize the event, the high school decided not to turn on their stadium lights for the April 20 Be The Light national celebration of senior athletes.
“We were kind of concerned about how we were going to keep people from congregating,” Fleury said. “But we obviously still wanted to find a way to honor our seniors.”
What was originally an athletic celebration turned into the Friday Night Lights, a parade to honor the entire senior class. As the sun started to set over the island, high school faculty and community members lined the street, wearing masks, waving signs and spinning gold and purple flags.
Music filled the air as students and their families drove their vehicles around the school. Some of the cars were decorated with balloons and streamers, some were topped with large makeshift graduation caps and others had “2020” written on them. The students received car magnets and high school towels before driving underneath a giant American flag.
“The thing that made me feel so good was the the turnout of staff,” said Principal Nate Salisbury. “That just made it electric.”
Fleury said the parade may become a yearly tradition.
“I think it’s something that we’re going to talk about,” he said. “This is such a a difficult time right now. To be able to have something good come out of this, what a great thing.”
Salisbury said the parade was part of the school’s five-week farewell to its seniors, which will culminate with their graduation ceremony. He said he won’t release any details about graduation yet because they are still monitoring the governor’s orders to determine what would be allowed.