Alaska Life

Kotzebue high school graduates get a parade after pandemic postpones commencement

KOTZEBUE -- The squawks and croons of newly returned sea gulls were drowned out by “Pomp and Circumstance” during an unusually loud and cheerful Saturday afternoon in the otherwise quiet reality of the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to social distancing mandates and a “hunker down” order, the Kotzebue Middle / High School graduation ceremony was postponed until fall. This year, graduating seniors celebrated a little differently and rode on four-wheelers and in the beds of decorated trucks to take part in a senior parade.

Large “2020” balloons reflected the sunlight while the wind rustled yellow and blue tassels attached to bright blue graduation caps. Cheers from friends and family were heard along nearly every part of the route as celebratory sirens sounded from the sidewalk.

Snow and ice have begun to melt and migratory birds are starting to return. But due to COVID-19, the shift from winter to spring has been met with an unfamiliar quiet around town. The parade livened up Kotzebue’s streets for an hour or so, traveling down Third Avenue, along Sikaagruk Shore Avenue, and eventually past Maniilaq Health Center’s elder care unit.

Parade organizer Jade Hill got permission from the Northwest Arctic Borough’s Incident Management Team and the city of Kotzebue to ensure the parade was held in accordance with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services social distancing and graduation guidelines. KOTZ, the local radio station, played “Pomp and Circumstance” on loop for 30 minutes so vehicles could tune in as the seniors rode in the parade.

“(That was) a nice little touch,” Hill said.

“That was really cool and good of you for putting that together,” John Chase said as he rode by Hill after the parade. “It was for the kids,” Hill responded, making sure the attention stayed on the seniors.

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