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Thousands of residents lined South Avenue, Main Street and the road through Waveny on Monday to cheer on the New Canaan High School class of 2020 during a special parade to mark their graduation.
Holding signs, horns and bells and waving from the side of the road along a four-mile route on a picture-perfect summer day, the community came out in full force to celebrate seniors whose final weeks of school and traditional graduation ceremony were disrupted by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Dressed in traditional white and red cap-and-gown, the smiling seniors waved from inside and atop a line of more than 250 cars decorated with their names and in some cases, photos, black and red balloons, NCHS slogans such as “From Lambs to Rams” and the colleges and universities they’ll enter come fall. Escorted by police, fire and EMS, the parade of cars started at NCHS, where the high school band played them out from a parking lot near Farm Road, then followed South Avenue into the downtown, back out by Main Street and up Farm Road to South Avenue and then through Waveny, where teachers, faculty and administrators with their own families cheered them on.
In many cases, the seniors could be seen crying as they waved goodbye to their teachers, who lined the main road through Waveny near its Lapham Road exit.
“I am so excited,” senior Sofia Delicata said at the NCHS staging area. “I feel like I’ve graduated six times because I’ve put this outfit on so many times. But I’m happy it’s finally here and now I can be with all my friends.”
Her fellow NCHS 2020 graduate, William Dantini, said the community-wide parade made the class stand out and was “unique.”
“I think it’s cool because we are like the one year that has a different graduation from everybody else,” he said.
At NCHS before the parade got underway, the seniors gathered as a class for the first time since March 12, when school buildings were closed and replaced with a virtual e-learning program. They could be seen greeting one another and taking photos in front of the school and in the soccer fields next to the NCHS track.
NCHS Principal Bill Egan, standing at the end of the route in cap and gown, called it “an amazing parade, truly.”
“To see the whole community come out like this is unbelievable,” he said. “Honestly the cars, they couldn’t be more festive. People seem outrageously happy. It’s a lot better than listening to me give a speech.”
Several members of the New Canaan Board of Education joined the district’s faculty and staff in celebrating the class of 2020 as the parade wound through Waveny.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said he “couldn’t be more proud” of how the parade turned out.
“It’s come together even better than I had hoped,” he said. “The decorations on the cars, the spirit, the positive energy is just overwhelming. Never been more proud.”