Stephanie Gannon hangs streams of lanterns from the ceiling at the small arena at the Cariboo Memorial Complex in anticipation of this weekend’s dry grad.

Arena transformed into Caribbean Night for Williams Lake Dry Grad

Thousands of hours of effort put into decorating arena for new graduates

Year after year the small arena at the Cariboo Memorial Complex is transformed into a magical location for new graduates — usually thanks to a small group of dedicated and creative people.

This year’s decorating crew was made largely of Angie Brinoni, her husband Michael and her kids, who put in 2,200 hours of work building and repurposing decorations to create a magical landscape for grads.

This year’s theme is Caribbean Nights, and the arena is complete with magical jelly fish, pirate ships, a kraken, palm trees, surf boards and even Johnny Depp makes an appearance. Many volunteers have had their hand in helping set up at the arena, beginning Monday evening, with the hopes of having it finished by Thursday afternoon.

Brinoni said that to design something like this, she starts with a scaled drawing of the arena, and then does concept drawings of the different areas she wants to build.

“I draw the pictures and then my husband, who is an architectural engineer technologist figures out how to build it.”

Years’ worth of decorations are stored at the Chimney Lake school and part of the fun of decorating is seeing what can be repurposed to fit the new theme.

This is Brinoni’s second year co-ordinating the grad set-up. Her first time was three years ago when her daughter graduated and the theme was “Night Circus.” This year it’s her son’s turn to graduate.

It’s fun doing the decorating, said Brinoni.

“I love it. It’s great, it’s nice to make a drawing and make it come to life.”

Not that you can tell when the place is decorated and the magic of grad happens, but the most mundane materials are used to create the most interesting of things — used coroplast becomes tiki faces, old canvas becomes beautiful murals, coral is made from pool noodles, an old boom box becomes a ship.

A beautiful wooden sign greets graduates as they walk into the space, made and donated by Oliver Tritten of OT Timber Frames. But until the Saturday night of dry grad, the rest is a secret for the graduates of 2018.

“I really hope the grads love it,” said Brinoni. “And I really hope they keep doing it, because sometimes it is the only big party they have in their life. Not everybody goes to university, not everybody gets married, but everybody gets a grad.”

Graduation festivities begin Friday, June 9, with the Skyline Graduation Ceremony taking place at 1 p.m. in the Gibraltar Room.

The Lake City Secondary Graduation ceremony will start at 6:30 p.m. at the big arena in the Cariboo Memorial Complex (grads should arrive by 5:30 p.m.).

Dry Grad takes place on Saturday June 9. The Dry Grade parade starts at 6 p.m. and will travel down Second Avenue, make a left on Borland Street, and then left onto Third Avenue. It will turn right onto Proctor Street and then continue through the Cariboo Memorial Arena parking lot.

For those hoping to check out the dry grad decorations inside, there will be guest viewings (a pass is required) from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday evening.


Tara Sprickerhoff photo Angie and Michael Brinoni helped build the bulk of the decorations - including this chainsaw carved Kraken for this year’s dry grad, the theme being “Caribbean Nights.”

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