The Class of 2019 at West Hartford’s Hall High School stepped into the glamorous world of Gatsby as they celebrated their graduation Thursday night.
By Dexter McCann. Photos by Hunter Marotto
The drab facade of the Hall cafeteria was unrecognizable at the completion of its transformation into a high class 1920s venue for the school’s Safe Grad celebration. The theme for this year was “HAll the Glitter,” and the cafe’s tables and chairs shined and sparkled as they welcomed this year’s graduates to celebrate in style.
“Our inspiration is Gatsby. That’s why everything is so elegant,” said Ellen Aspell, who co-chaired the decorating committee along with Lisa Poduje and Caroline Anderson for Thursday’s Safe Grad celebration.
The substance-free event provided a safe environment for the class to celebrate their graduation, with the promise of food, games, and prizes enticing students to attend. The Safe Grad committee took the latter to a new level this year, with an iPad, apple watch, airpods, TV, and mini-fridge all being raffled off.
“We have at least 30 really big prizes, so probably 10 percent of the attendees are going to come away with a really big prize,” said Lisa Greene, one of the committee chairs, before the event.
For a chance at winning a big prize, students had to remain at the party until its conclusion at 4 a.m. Doors opened at 10 p.m, meaning many graduates celebrated for six straight hours with their friends.
For those who were not lucky enough to win one of the big prizes, smaller raffles were held throughout the night, and, with the help of local vendors, each student was able to win at least one prize. They included one-day passes to the JCC, toothbrushes from Fishman Orthodontics, and gift cards to local restaurants.
The raffles weren’t the only thing holding the students’ attention. One of the major attractions was a Gatsby-themed casino, with games of poker, blackjack, roulette, and bumper pool running throughout the night.
Students could also enjoy the ever popular dance floor, complete with a live DJ. If that grew too overwhelming, the graduates could retreat to the quiet room, which ran movies throughout the night.
Another impressive attraction was an outdoor fountain, situated right outside the entrance to the event. Cornhole sets were also available for all the graduates to enjoy.
Free food was available throughout the night, much of it donated from local vendors like Crown Market. Many of the options could be considered “finger food,” so that students could grab a bite to go without having their party interrupted.
More than 90 percent of the Class of ‘18 attended their Safe Grad, and the committee chairs anticipated similar attendance stats for this year’s party.
“There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm,” added Greene.
Despite that enthusiasm, students remained unaware of the night’s theme until they walked into the party on Thursday night. Efforts to keep the theme a secret included diversion, as some committee chairs advertised Safe Grad as an international celebration: “Hall around the world.”
Instead, the students were greeted with an impressive array of sparkling and glittery attractions, one that would not have been possible without the work of a countless number of volunteers from parents in the Class of ‘19.
“I would say when it’s all said and done, depending on the event, I would say probably 150 to 200 [volunteers.] Parents have volunteered in some capacity throughout the year,” Greene added.
All the event chairs praised the efforts of local businesses, many of whom contributed their services alongside fundraising for the event. Lox Stock and Bagel, which had a tip jar for money to be donated to safe grad, was just one of the examples noted by the chairs.
As a result of their efforts, alongside those of hundreds of parent volunteers, Safe Grad’s journey back in time was an unmitigated success, a special way for students to spend one last night with their friends and classmates at Hall High School.
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