The decorative façade is a community tradition, dating back to the first SLV Grad Night held in 1998 after the death of young SLVH grad David Maze, who was killed as a passenger in an alcohol-related car accident the previous year. Each year the parents vote on a theme, which stays secret until the weekend before graduation. Then the parents construct the front façade, unveiling the theme. The rest of the grad night’s surprises and fun were yet to be discovered at press time.
“It’s an honor and privilege for the parents to set the event up, and this year it was our turn,” said Joe Primeau, who led the construction effort. He said the effort began in October and the list of volunteers is too long to list, but Scott Murray was key. He designed and built the guitars.
Murray said he’d never taken on a project so big before, but Valley Mini Storage gave him the space to work and after he cut out the pieces, a host of volunteers helped put it all together.
“Strangers showed up, grabbed saws and screw guns and got to work. It's part of what is so awesome about the valley,” Murray said.
Josephine Swenson, co-coordinator of this year’s grad night event, said about $30,000 was raised to send the students off.
“Once they get in everything is free,” she said. “We get about 90-95 percent turnout. It’s very popular. When the students come in, they start running around like little kids.”
Only seniors are allowed, but all graduating students from any of the charter high schools operated by SLVUSD are also welcome.
Primeau said a lot of the parents who helped, like himself, have kids in the graduating class. Among these is Dave Dunning from Legend Theatrical. Primeau said Dunning’s expertise provided a “wow” factor.
“We also had help from some local trades people that don't even have kids at the high school,” Primeau said. “John Fasals of Running Electric has been the unofficial electrician for GN since anyone can remember and Mike Boyington, a well-known fencing contractor in the valley, has been contributing his time putting up security fencing for the event for years. Safway Scaffolding in San Jose contributed material and labor for building the scaffolding structure, which was necessary because the normal entrance area is under construction for the new theater.”
Swenson said some students were worried that the construction being done on the performing arts center would prevent the tradition, but in the end, it provided impetus to create something bigger, to hide the construction. Murray said he wanted to create something grand for this graduating class.
“The kids in my daughter’s class just really impress me and I wanted to do something bigger than they expected,” Murray said. “The donations from the local hardware stores and the huge support from the wine/chocolate silent auction let us take cool ideas and make them bigger.”
Swenson said she is still looking for volunteers to work the event. If you would like to help, you can reach her by phone at 336-8837 or email her email@example.com.