Old Town

Old Town High School seniors graduate in historic ceremony at municipal airport

OLD TOWN, Maine — Old Town High School’s 120  graduates made history on Friday evening as they pulled their masks off and one by one, walked across the stage in the middle of Dewitt Field to receive their diplomas. 

This year’s graduation ceremony didn’t look like traditional celebrations of years past in Old Town — families packed into their cars and parked in rows before a newly erected stage behind the airport runway. 

Tyler McCannell walks across Dewitt Field towards the stage to pick up his diploma during the Old Town High School graduation on Friday. (Nina Mahaleris | The Penobscot Times)

The occasional plane flew overhead as speakers celebrated graduates and reflected on the past four years. 

“You have persevered during the most trying of times,” OTHS Social Studies Teacher Michael May said to graduates during his guest speech. “Know these things: we love you, we miss you, and we are immensely proud of you.” 

Class President and Salutatorian Sydney Sheehan shared memories from her time as a coyote and Valedictorian Mikaela Kenny spoke about the triumphs and pitfalls the class endured together.

 “We have learned to live in the moment and truly savor every second,” she said. 

The class also remembered two friends — Dylan McInnis and Elliot Bois-Horne — who died before they could begin high school. 

As students crossed the stage, removing their custom OTHS coyotes masks, families stuck their heads out of windows or slipped on their own face coverings and jumped out of their cars for photos. 

Rodney Barnett waves while being recognized during graduation at the Old Town Municipal Airport on Friday. (Nina Mahaleris | The Penobscot Times)

Diplomas in hand, each graduate walked off stage in mostly silence, except for celebratory honking from the crowd, coupled by the occasional ring of cowbells and cheers. 

“Honestly I was thrilled with the way it went,” Principal Scott Gordon said of the ceremony. The school has talked about doing an outdoor graduation in the past, but didn’t go through with it until now, as outside factors like weather made it challenging. 

“There are so many things that make [an outdoor ceremony difficult],” he said. But this year with the coronavirus pandemic, the options for graduation ceremonies were limited. 

The drive-in ceremony was a popular choice this summer around the state as schools tried to make the pandemic-era graduation memorable for their students. 

[288 seniors graduate from Bangor High, one vehicle at a time]

“They lost so much this spring,” said Gordon of the seniors who missed out on special events like the final sports game of the year or last band concert, when school shut down in mid-March. 

An aerial shot of Old Town High School’s graduation ceremony at Dewitt Field on Friday, June 12, 2020. (Courtesy of City of Old Town)

“It was nice to send them off with something really special like that.”

“I just [wanted] to hug all of them,” English Teacher Natalie Davis said of seeing her old students again, some perhaps for the last time. “I don’t think it could’ve gone any better.” 

Gordon thanked everyone who helped put on the ceremony, particularly the City of Old Town, the police department and Waterfront Concerts, which provided the stage and sound system. 

“That took a village,” he said.

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