Sharon Haynes (left) and Bonnie Tio put the finishing touches on a monster. The final dry grad party for the separate Columneetza and Williams Lake secondary schools

Sharon Haynes (left) and Bonnie Tio put the finishing touches on a monster. The final dry grad party for the separate Columneetza and Williams Lake secondary schools

Milestone final grad for Columneetza and WLSS

The last graduating classes from Columneetza and WLSS will be celebrating their graduation and dry grad this weekend.

Tara Sprickerhoff

Tribune Staff Writer

The last graduating classes from Columneetza and Williams Lake secondary school will be celebrating their graduation and dry grad this weekend.

This year approximately $190,000 will be given to 116 grads from both of the high schools in the form of scholarships and/or bursaries, said scholarship co-ordinator Jeanette Gobolos.

For the first time, Thompson Rivers University has donated $50,000 for graduates planning on attending post-secondary at the Williams Lake campus next year.

“We have 125 unique donors,” said Gobolos. “The community is incredible.”

The scholarships and bursaries will be awarded at each individual school’s graduation ceremony this Saturday at the Cariboo Memorial Complex.

Williams Lake Secondary School’s ceremony will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning, while Columneetza’s ceremony will take place at 1 p.m.

Following the ceremonies, dry grad festivities, which welcome all graduating students from town including students from Maranatha, Skyline and the Cariboo Adventist Academy, will begin.

This year marks the 25th official dry grad.

Saturday evening, the community is invited to watch the 2013 Dry Grad Parade where graduating students and their dates will parade through downtown.

Grads are asked to muster by entering Second Avenue via Rose Street at 5 p.m.

The parade itself will start at 6 p.m. and students will travel down Second Avenue, turn left on Borland Street and left again on Third Avenue, turning right on Proctor street, and continuing on to the Cariboo Memorial Complex.

“We would like the community to come out and watch the parade and see the gorgeous dresses and students that are celebrating one of their landmarks in their life,” says dry grad chair Betty Turatus. She says they are still seeking volunteers to help with the parade itself.

Following the parade, grads will be given two prom passes to allow parents, friends and relatives inside the building to tour the Dry Grad site and take pictures of their graduates inside the complex with the decorations.

Prom passes will also be recycled at the door for others looking to see the decorations.

At 10 p.m. everyone except the grads and their escorts will be asked to leave the building and the all-night fun for the graduating students will begin.

This year’s dry grad theme is City Nights Bright Lights which decorating chair Sheryl-Lynn Lewis and a crew of parents and community members have been hard at work creating since the beginning of March.

Volunteers have made  everything from Big Ben to more than 1,000 homemade flowers during the past few months.

“There should be lots of details and things for [grads] to wander around and look at,” Lewis says. “We want to celebrate our grads, so we’ve put a lot of effort into making the night look good.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer is welcome to help set up at the arena both Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m., Lewis says.

As well, the public is invited to come to an open house and look at the decorations Friday from 12 to 3:30 p.m. at the complex. However, no grads are allowed until Saturday night, she says.

Nine cities including Moscow, Casablanca and New York will be featured in the arena, but Lewis isn’t telling about the details.

“I don’t want to give too much away,” she says.

The activities for the grads happening throughout the night are also a secret, says Turatus.

However, she would say one thing: “These kids this year are not going to be bored! There isn’t an inch inside the arena that doesn’t have stuff for them to do.”

Parents are reminded that they must come pick their students from the dry grad events if they wish to leave throughout the night, or at 5 a.m. when the dry grad ends.

This is to ensure that everyone gets home safely, Turatus says.

“We know grad is a success when the kids all have fun and they are safe in the morning.”