Vehicles strolled onto the Menahga athletic fields, one by one, Friday evening as the “Pomp and Circumstance” march played over loudspeakers and an audience, also in their vehicles, watched the procession on two jumbotron screens.

“These have been truly challenging times. Ten weeks ago, everyone had the world as we know it turned upside down,” said Superintendent Kevin Wellen in his opening remarks. Looking back at the responses, he said, “We had to rethink our priorities, reevaluate what’s important. It started with material items. I never knew how much people valued toilet paper until I saw those bare shelves. … Food and security have no longer been taken for granted. Oddly, it has not taken long to realize how much we value our barbers and hairstylists. As time progressed, we needed to talk and visit with friends. The use of Zoom and Google Meets grew exponentially.”

Now, Wellen said, it was time to celebrate the accomplishments of Menahga seniors “as best we can under these conditions.”

Class speakers Annie Lake, Nicholas Treinen, Tricia Skoog and Bailey Munger reflected on the past 13 years. Car honks punctuated

Keynote speaker Tracee Lindquist, a paraprofessional at the school, told graduates, “I know that your senior year was not the way you hoped it would be. You have missed out on many fond memories that could have been made -- prom, class trip, being the first class to graduate in the new gym, signing everyone’s yearbook and the last day of school with that final goodbye. It is good to mourn these missed opportunities, but I also hope you will learn from them as well. Everyone will go through trials and hard times in this life. … It is during these times that you can stretch and grow the most.”

Lindquist encouraged students to hold these virtues most dear – integrity, perseverance, self-control and love – and practice them daily.

High School Principal Mark Frank noted that while Class of 2020 may have missed out on many special events because of the pandemic, they managed to retain one: senior prank. Frank showed a photo of a giant blue banner on the new high school’s front doors, pronouncing it “for sale. Vacant since March. Lots of rooms. Full gym” and listing Frank’s phone number.

Following the ceremony, graduates paraded through Menahga in their vehicles, led by police squad cars and fire department trucks.