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Billings all-school grad parties making new plans to meet health rules

Billings all-school grad parties making new plans to meet health rules

Billings Senior High School Graduation

Graduates throw their hats in the air at the conclusion of the graduation ceremony for Billings Senior High School at the Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark in May 2018.

As Billings and other schools across the nation have walked a winding path planning high school graduations, organizers for schoolwide grad parties have followed carefully behind. 

The traditional events — Rad Grad for Senior High, Bear Bash for West High, and Falcon Finale for Skyview High — don't comply with health recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But each school will still have a celebration, with events, parades and outdoor meet-ups. Many plans are still tentative, waiting for the OK from the City of Billings and the county public health department. 

"There’s an emotional attachment to it being your last night with these classmates that you’ve grown up with for all these years. … It’s closure on your high school years,” said Shelly Mrachek, who helps lead planning for West. 

Organizers have been hesitant to set plans or cancel them too soon — not unlike the process for Billings Public Schools' graduation ceremonies. That's led to some confusion, but organizers said there also been a robust interest in volunteering.

“Just keeping everything coordinated seems to be a big hurdle right now,” said Skyview organizer Brandy Malcher. 

“We really want to make sure we are going through the city, getting the permits, getting the insurance... We just really, really feel that it’s important to make sure this doesn’t get shut down at the last minute.”

The pandemic also nixed a major fundraiser for the grad parties, leaving schools hoping for other options. 

At past events, big-ticket items like televisions, laptops, and mini-fridges have been prizes for some students, and usually every student who attends the alcohol- and drug-free celebrations gets some kind of gift or prize. Organizers are hoping for similar options this year.


Planners hope to have a student parade following the Skyview graduation ceremony at MetraPark's First Interstate Arena on May 24 that meanders back to Skyview. There, students would be awarded prizes at some kind of gathering at the school parking lot. 

Skyview had a good start to the year for fundraising, Malcher said, but the school is still looking at "creative options," for last-minute fundraising. That includes a "virtual car wash" designed  in part to carry echoes of previous years' War of the Walls partnership with MasterLube. 


Planners hope to have a parade on May 22 that begins at Senior and winds its way through the school zone before finishing at the West Park Promenade parking area, near the former Lucky's Market. There, organizers plan to give away prizes much like previous celebrations. 

Organizer Ceci Bentler said that a "wildly successful" alumni fundraising drive had already raised about $15,000, helping to fill the gap from canceled events. 


West organizers plan to use the Amusement Park Drive-in Theater near the East Main Street exit to Laurel as an outdoor venue for a celebration. Mrachek said that she hopes the drive-in can help the group meet health rules, as the business has already opened. 

West is planning to announce a new fundraiser for the event soon, but is still finalizing details. 

All City

Anyone who wants to donate to a fund that is split between grad parties for the three schools can send checks, cash or gifts to: Billings All Schools Graduation Celebration Committee, PO Box 1702, Billings, MT 59103.

Check out our 2020 Salute to Valedictorians

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