Guest Column: Area schools should combine 50th reunion celebrations
By Charles Blatcher III
This paper is to introduce a concept we feel would offer some positive promotional and economic benefits to the City of Rockford. It calls for turning the 50th reunion for the graduating classes from Rockford high schools into a citywide annual event, beginning next year.
The year 2015 will mark the 50th reunion anniversary for the graduating classes of 1965. Six local high schools and two regional schools will be planning reunions to mark the occasion: Rockford Auburn, Rockford West, Rockford East, Machesney Park Harlem, Rockford Boylan Catholic, Rockford Guilford, Freeport and Belvedere.
The regional schools are associated through their sports programs, which included their interaction with the high schools in Rockford.
We are also proposing to include the graduating classes from Rockford College and Rock Valley Community College in the reunion celebrations.
We are proposing the 50th anniversary reunions of the Rockford and regional high schools be combined into a citywide celebration. The rationale for combining the reunions is based on the interlocking histories of the high schools through sports and other competitive activities.
The thought of inviting the graduating classes of 1965 to participate in a joint reunion is new and exciting. We are not aware of any other community in the nation that has institutionalized the occasion as a citywide activity.
The idea is to establish this as an annual event to coincide with a summer festival honoring the subsequent 50th reunion anniversaries of the classes following the year of 1965.
The idea of old rivals coming together in celebration as friends after an absence of a half century is a pleasant thought. Planning the event will offer the opportunity for once rivals to work together in harmony, developing and implementing the three days of ceremonial activities to honor our place in the city’s history.
We are proposing the reunion celebrations be carried forward, in part, as a fund-raising activity to support an ongoing citywide scholarship fund for students graduating from the Rockford, Freeport and Belvedere public school districts.
As an example of a joint fund-raising activity, the reunion committees could plan and host a dinner/dance at the BMO Harris Bank Center as a collective activity. The event could be used to acknowledge the members of the schools’ sports teams and cheerleaders for the reunion year being celebrated. Those individuals were our gladiators of the day, representing the various schools’ alumni in the sporting arenas. It would provide an opportunity for us to acknowledge the entertainment value of their contributions and their role in establishing the legacies of the eras in the history of Rockford.
We could also use the occasion to acknowledge the individual accomplishments of our classmates in the 50 years since their graduations. Coupling the dinner/dance with the class picnics and other summer festivities, the weekend would be memorable.
It is also suggested that as a part of the fund-raising activities, a 50th reunion yearbook could be created to memorialize the annual celebrations. The proceeds from the sale of the publication beyond the production cost will be contributed to the scholarship fund.
Proposed benefits to the City of Rockford
The event would offer the perfect opportunity for the City of Rockford to be showcased to the nation in a positive manner. It would provide economy benefits for the city through the tax dollars generated from the influx of tourists visiting the community as participants in the celebration. It would also provide an infusion of dollars into the local economy by maximizing the utilization of services provided by local businesses, i.e., hotels, restaurants and other venues of entertainment to support the three days of festivities.
The intentions of this document are to open dialogue about the subject of institutionalizing the 50th high school reunion anniversaries of graduates from area high schools. It is presented to invite input from the various reunion committees that are working on the 2015 reunion celebrations and the City of Rockford’s government.
In conclusion, I am scheduled to be in Rockford May 15 through May 19. If there is support among the reunion committees for the concept, I would like to call for a meeting with Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) to discuss the possibility of him establishing a city commission to oversee the planning, implementation and promotion of the 2015 celebration.
I would like for representatives from the reunion committees to join me for the meeting. It would be proposed that the commission is composed of members from the Reunion Committees and representative(s) from the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce.
Your comments and suggestions would be welcome.
Charles Blatcher III
Posted June 18, 2014