Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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April 13, 2014

Blazer seniors to graduate by the riverside

2014 commencement will be first at Ashland’s riverfront park

ASHLAND — Paul Blazer High School seniors disappointed because they won’t get to graduate in Putnam Stadium now have the chance to make history.

Weather permitting, the Blazer graduation will be at the city’s riverfront park May 30, Superintendent Steve Gilmore said Friday.

“It’s a first, and how many firsts do you get?” Gilmore said.

Gilmore said his granddaughter, Carlyle Clark, who is among the graduates, suggested the riverfront and reminded him that it was during his tenure as mayor that the city began to develop the park.

City officials have signed off on the idea and city manager Ben Bitter is helping make plans for the event.

“I think it’s a tremendous idea and a tremendous use of the riverfront,” said Mayor Chuck Charles. “What better backdrop for a graduation in a river town than to be on the river?”

The graduation setup will somewhat resemble Summer Motion, with the stage placed near the water and graduates in front of it with the river and bridges in the background. “I think it will be an absolutely beautiful ceremony,” Gilmore said.

The portable stage and sound system will be provided by Studimo, the same Ironton company that services Summer Motion.

Provided seating will be limited and seniors will receive a limited number of tickets for family and friends. However, others may bring lawn chairs and blankets to sit on, he said.

Ashland police will provide security and monitor the CSX railroad tracks.

There will be no parking at the riverfront park but vehicles will be allowed in to drop off handicapped spectators.

Alternate seating and staging will be set up in the James Anderson Gymnasium in case bad weather forces the ceremony to move indoors.

Demolition of Putnam Stadium, the traditional site of Blazer’s graduation, forced the change of venue. The rebuilt stadium is scheduled to be completed this fall and will be available for the 2015 graduation.

However, the riverfront may be available and if there is a consensus among future senior classes, and if the school board approves it, Blazer may hold graduations there again, Gilmore said.

The city’s goal is to get more use for the riverfront and holding graduation there is likely to stimulate others to plan events, Charles said.

The ceremony will start at 6:30 p.m. on graduation day.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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