CLAYTON— The Class of 2020 has had a senior year like no other due to the current health crisis, so Rabun County community members came together and showed their support to the seniors in a parade down Main Street in Clayton on Tuesday.
Graduates from Rabun County High School, Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School and Tallulah Falls School were represented in the parade.
Approximately 45 cars and over 80 graduates were in the parade procession.
Banners with pictures of the seniors were also hung in different areas downtown as a way to honor them.
“We just wanted the seniors to have as many big events as possible,” said Tosha Elliott, mother of a graduating senior and coordinator for the parade, about the reason behind it. “This is our version of graduation.”
And friends and family cheered and waved and blew air horns from the sidelines as the parade of seniors drove by, just as they would at a traditional graduation.
“It means a lot as our senior year was taken away unexpectedly. It’s nice that the community rallies around seniors to put this on,” said senior Kyleigh Overholt.
“It means that the people in the community care for us. They’ve really shown out about what they are able to do for us and it means so much to me,” said senior Gracie Mote about what it meant to her.
The seniors went all out and decorated their vehicles with balloons, signs with their graduation pictures, inspiring messages written on windows in bright colors and banners proudly displaying their accomplishments as the Class of 2020.
“The parents really wanted to celebrate them,” said Carol Smiling, who is a mother of a senior and also coordinated the event.
Led by police cars and fire trucks, graduates packed into cars, truck beds, and the backs of jeeps and waved as they rode by friends and family, and some even blew bubbles during the parade in celebration.
“It means a lot because we did not get a traditional graduation. This keeps spirits up and maybe people will think it’s a better graduation than what we would have gotten,” said senior Cole Littrell about what the parade meant for him.
Senior Haley McKay said that she thought the parade was “pretty cool.”
“I just think it’s sweet they are doing this for all of the seniors,” said senior Gracie Dugas about the community recognition.
Parents also showed appreciation for the parade.
“I think it’s awesome and I think because of the pandemic it is a way to show that these
things are still important,” said Jenny Richardson, mother of senior Cassidy Richardson.
Tim Overholt, Father of senior Kyleigh Overholt, said he appreciated the effort by the city.
“I’m glad they’re doing it.” “I’m really proud of them [the Class of 2020] and I’m glad the city is doing this for them,” Overholt said.
“My number one goal was for each of them to know they were not forgotten,” Elliott said about the reason for celebrating every graduate.
The unique way the Class of 2020 spent their senior year is one for the history books, and how the community came together during a difficult time to support them is something that will always be remembered.