By PJ Ferguson

Lined up for the Whitehall Elks Lodge “Celebration for the Graduates” parade, senior Makayla Gosselin drove her 2001 Subaru, named “Betsy,” her first vehicle that she used to commute to school during her abbreviated senior year on campus.

With her classmates lined up in their vehicles behind her, some in their parents’ cars and some driving their own, the general consensus was a feeling of gratefulness.

“It’s nice,” said Gabriel Hurlburt, riding along with his family. “I am glad they are at least doing something.”

Senior Scottie Macduff, driving along with his older sister, was also grateful for the event.

“It’s uplifting and good for morale,” said Macduff.

Some students brought their pets along for the ride.

Driving his 1999 Dodge Ram, senior Tyler Shattuck brought his dog, Lizzie, excited to see the teachers again in what was the first time since March for many of the students in attendance.

Senior Ricky Bruce also brought his canine companion, Rogue, expressing how it is “good to see everybody again.”

Vice principal Ethan Burgess greeted each senior as they drove up for the photo op.

“I’m going to miss you man,” Burgess said, pointing to one of the seniors as they rode by.

Vice Principal Ethan Burgess greeting Whitehall class of 2020 seniors prior to the Elks parade on Monday.

Burgess says he had the entire graduating class as students when he was formerly a teacher at the elementary school.

“It’s odd, I know they’re old but my dadness comes out and I still care for them,” said Burgess, adding that he is happy the seniors are beginning their next chapter in their lives.

When the seniors reached the curb in front of the Elks, they were greeted by interim principal John Godfrey, along with other school officials including superintendent Patrick Dee and school board president Roxanne Waters.

Along with their turkey dinners and Stewart’s milkshake cards provided by the Elks, the seniors received a bundle containing their caps and gowns along with other materials pertaining to graduation.

“I thought it was a great school community event and I was proud to be a part of it,” said Godfrey.

The Elks dinner for the seniors has been a tradition for 17 years, according to exalted ruler Robert Putorti Jr.

After receiving approval from the mayor and the Whitehall police chief, the Elks decided to rework the event to ensure it continued even under the restrictions placed on gatherings by the state due to COVID-19.

“It’s all about the kids,” said Putorti, “It’s been a trying year and we want to celebrate all their accomplishments.”

After receiving their materials, the seniors lined up behind vehicles from Skenesborough EMS, the Whitehall Police Department and the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company to parade across town, with spectators standing roadside to cheer them on as they drove by. The Riders of American Legion Post 83 capped off the parade, revving their engines and ensuring noise was made for the seniors.

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