It may have been cold and drizzly, with leaden skies, and Nassau County may have been in the midst of the worst crisis it has faced in a century, but spirits were as high as if the sun were shining brightly on a carefree world as Seaford and Wantagh celebrated the season with two parades last Friday.
In the morning, dozens of Seafordites joined teachers from Seaford High School to honor the class of 2020. And late that afternoon, at least 100 cars, trucks and service vehicles assembled at Gen. Douglas MacArthur High School for a raucous tribute to first responders and front-line workers.
Cars and trucks began gathering in the Seaford High parking lot shortly after 8 a.m. for a cruise through the district that took them past seniors’ homes, as well as the district’s other schools, before they circled back to end where they started.
“We’re going to try to drive by as many seniors’ houses as possible,” Seaford High Principal Scott Bersin said a few days before the event.
At MacArthur, County Legislator John Ferretti joined the Levittown Moms Facebook group to sponsor a car parade that featured State Assemblyman John Mikulin, Hempstead Town Councilman Dennis Dunne and Town Clerk Kate Murray, all appropriately masked, trading elbow bumps with their constituents and one another before the parade kicked off from the school’s parking lot at 5:30 p.m.
More than 100 cars, pickup trucks, fire trucks and ambulances wended their way through Ferretti’s 15th district, which encompasses parts of Wantagh, Levittown, and East Meadow. Their route took them along Hempstead Turnpike and through Eisenhower Park, past firehouses, hospitals and ambulance depots.
The parade passed the headquarters of the Levittown Volunteer Fire Department, which sustained heavy losses on Sept. 11, 2001, and is well acquainted with the cost in first responders’ lives during crises. Nineteen years later, department members still suffer serious health issues.
Maintaining a stately pace, the vehicles honked, blew sirens and yelled encouragement that was robustly answered by townspeople along the route.
The Seaford parade was smaller, and as a result, perhaps a bit more subdued. But despite the early hour, vehicles followed the same pattern as their MacArthur colleagues, with sirens, songs and shouted greetings.
Both parades featured cartoon and movie characters, like Mickey Mouse and Star Wars storm troopers.
Despite the festive atmosphere, the Seaford seniors themselves were by no means finished with the demanding schedule that has made the class of 2020 outstanding. Bersin said that many seniors were prepping for the A.P. exams that were scheduled to be proctored this week despite the technological challenges.
True to the hamlet’s reputation for “Seaford Pride,” the class remains united. Senior officers gather digitally at least once a week to keep spirits high and share ideas, according to class Secretary Ally McMahon.
Although seniors probably won’t have the typical graduation sendoff, their families are decorating the front doors, windows and porches of their homes to create a new kind of commencement excitement. The decorations comprise collages that mark the major moments of the students’ high school journeys, and include photos, jerseys, class of 2020 signs and the logos of the colleges they will attend this fall.
Class officers also created a weekly newsletter, shared electronically, in which students can read inspirational quotes and stay updated on the standings of the door-decorating contest.
Seniors Nicole Amato and James Padavan also created an Instagram account that spotlights classmates’ future plans. Students can send photos, along with their college selections and expected majors. And two weeks ago, senior athletes were honored with a community drive-through of their own called Light Up the Night, in which the school’s scoreboard was illuminated with 20:20, and participants around the district flashed lights in honor of senior athletes’ achievements.
Such gestures are important, McMahon said, “because [they] give recognition to all of the seniors.”
Administrators in the Seaford, Wantagh and Levittown districts have yet to say definitively what they will do to launch their respective graduating classes into the post-high-school world. But, Wantagh Superintendent John McNamara said, “We want to do something special to honor them that also keeps everyone safe.”