By Kayla Anderson
A pandemic doesn’t stop the Sparks High School Railroaders from continuing tradition as the school’s alumni association was recently able to host its annual flag raising ceremony.
On the morning of September 28, the Sparks High ROTC and Class of 1970 alumni Kathy LeMond raised a new American flag and retired the old one. The annual Sparks High flag raising ceremony began in 2012 by alumni Craig Gustavson when he wanted to celebrate his 50th reunion by donating a new American flag. However, the school told him that he had to “present” the flag rather than donate it and the school and Gustavson collaborated to hold a ceremony during homecoming week.
“I wanted a nice fresh flag to show off,” he says.
Every year since, the successive alumni classes (Gustavson was in the Class of 1962) have kicked off the homecoming festivities with retiring the old flag and flying a new one.
“I had such a high doing this for my class when I started this thing and I’ve never come down from it. Other alumni from following classes have said the same thing, that they’re deeply touched by this,” Gustavson adds.
However, the coronavirus pandemic created a rocky start to the 2020/21 school year causing many school sports and events to get cancelled. Fortunately, the 2020 flag raising ceremony was able to go on.
“It went very smooth. Between the pandemic and not having a homecoming, I’m thrilled that it still happened,” Gustavson says.
“The Class of 1970 presented the new flag that went up today (September 28). They weren’t able to have their 50th reunion- I think they’re postponing it until next year- so it’s great that we could have this. It’s all thanks to Donald Abbott (Sparks city councilman and Sparks High alumni) …he asked the vice principal of the school and then asked (principal) Kevin Carroll and he said we could have it,” he adds.
Accompanied by the school’s ROTC, presenter and Sparks High alumni Kathy LeMond (the stepmother of Tour de France winner Greg LeMond) raised the flag while school was in progress.
“The Sparks ROTC students were all there in uniform as the Class of ’69 flag came down the pole and was retired to the display case (located in the main hallway of the high school). It’s great to see more women involved,” says Gustavson.
Gustavson reveals that the biggest concern was that holding the event was contingent on school being in session and fortunately it was.
“The students were there, all wearing facemasks and maintaining social distancing because they see what’s going on. I see the seriousness of it, being the age I am. What they’re exactly dealing with I don’t know, but it’s different,” he says.
It’s another mark that shows the resiliency of the Railroaders, pulling together a successful and safe event that keeps tradition alive.
“The weather was nice, and this event all came together pretty fast; the Class of ’70 came through,” chuckles Gustavson.