By MEGAN HUSSEY
In Hernando County and throughout the nation and world, students graduating from high school and college face a bittersweet season; a time in which they will not be able to celebrate the proms, the live awards ceremonies, the public graduation ceremonies that generally come as part and parcel of every young life. Yet whenever there is an important life milestone, there is a way and a means to celebrate.
Today's graduation parties may not look quite like their predecessors; gala celebrations in which mass groups of families and friends gathered for large, face to face meetings. Yet the spirit of love and pride inspiring these parties remains strong and true--and, or so many grads will be happy to know--today's modified grad parties are in no way 'scaled down' in terms of food, gifts and decorations.
A 2020 graduation party can take on a variety of forms, all conducted with an eye to health and safety.
1. Remote Party: Imagine a graduate logging in to any of the online meeting sites, and seeing the smiling faces of their friends and family members--people gathered to wish them a happy graduation. A remote party has the potential to exceed its face to face counterpart in terms of size, as people from around the world can log on to attend--showering the grad with cyber hugs, heart emojis and virtual gift cards in the process.
2. Drive By Party: Drive by graduations are all the rage, with grads accepting diplomas through drivers' door windows as guests honk their support. Some families are choosing to adapt this format for 'party purposes,' setting up a party table in their front yards as party guests drive by and honk their support--perhaps also dropping off safely packaged gifts.
3. Family Party: As families of grads quarantine together, they still can plan a graduation party that--while perhaps boasting a shorter guest list than originally planned--does not skimp on the gifts and decorations, the food and the fun.
Indeed, all of these grad parties feature those same basic elements that turn a gathering into a party--and, at times, these elements can be combined.
Edible Arrangements, a national gift basket chain based locally at 2711 Forest Wood Ct., Spring Hill, offers elaborate edible gifts that could double as party snacks. Their offerings include the Graduation Celebration Platter, which features pineapple, grapes and strawberries dipped in semisweet chocolate, mini sequin sprinkles, and 2020-shaped pineapple slices; the Graduation Celebration fruit bouquet, featuring pineapple daisies, pineapple stars, strawberries, cantaloupe, and 2020-shaped pineapple slices, artfully arranged in a custom Congratulations container; and the Congratulations Dipped Fruit Box, an assortment of strawberries, banana bites, and crisp apple wedges, with each strawberry dipped in semisweet chocolate and topped with white chocolate "Congrats" hearts.
“Edible is all about celebrating the special occasions in life. Young people put in so many years of hard work and perseverance to reach graduation day and we want to help them celebrate, even if that celebration is virtual," read a statement released from Edible Arrangements, released through spokesperson Lauren Caracciolo. "That’s why we’ve created gifts and arrangements specifically designed to commemorate graduation day. They are a perfect way to congratulate your special graduate, even if you can’t physically be there to celebrate with them!”
Edible Arrangements in Spring Hill offers delivery and curbside pickup; call (352) 606-0096 for more information. And to see the complete selection of Edible Arrangements graduation gifts, visit https://www.ediblearrangements.com/Fruit-Gifts/Graduation-Celebration-6474?ArrangementGroupID=363&T=1589312677432.
The grad party menu will depend on the preferred foods of the graduate and his/her family; locally in Brooksville, Papa Joe's Italian restaurant offers a pasta family pack that serves up to five guests (featuring choices that include penne, linguini, spaghetti and angel hair), party platters of about 75 pieces (centered around a Bruschetta Bowl, bacon-wrapped scallops, or other menu options), party pans (with entree options including baked penne, tortellini romano, grilled salmon with broccoli, chicken parmigiana with pasta, lasagna, etc.), plus sides and desserts.
"(Our menus for graduation parties) depend on the size, wishes and budget," said "Papa Joe" Garratana, whose restaurant offers catering, takeout, and limited restaurant dining. "Buffet, plated or party pans. It's all in the hands of the host we work with....We cater to small to large groups (according to the COVID-19 guidelines)."
Garratana said that his restaurant's party menu rates a grade of A with most grads.
"Who doesn't love Italian food!" he said.
Papa Joe's Italian Restaurant is located at 6244 Spring Lake Hwy, Brooksville, and can be reached at (352) 799-3904.
And of course, no graduation party would be complete without pictorial records of the whole experience. J Rayne Photography in Spring Hill is offering a variety of photographic services this grad season; with students dressing for their 2020 graduation portraits in everything from sports jerseys to formal wear to medical masks and gloves--and in this last category, they might employ rolls of toilet tissue and bottles of disinfectant as era-appropriate photo props.
"We are still doing Senior photo sessions as well. Many kids didn't have a chance to do them earlier and they are booking sessions now that the parks and beaches have opened up," said Jamie Aubery, owner/photographer of J. Rayne Photography, which can be reached at (352) 686-0493 or http://www.jraynephotography.com/. "They are using the images for invitations and announcements."
Aubrey's approach to the chronicling of graduation parties is both timely and timeless in essence.
"Our package is $50 an hour. That includes the backdrop for smaller group photos. The images are on a flash drive with the copyright release," she said. "We document all of the decor and people enjoying the party along with fun groups of friends and family. The photos are so important to get all of the family members and friends together in fun shots....There will be family members that will not be able to attend if they are in a high risk category and the photos will be the only way to share the experience with those loved ones."
Because regardless of how troubled the times, life always goes on; and for these grads, it's only beginning.
"These are memories that will last a lifetime of such a momentous occasion," said Aubrey. "This is the ending of a chapter of their childhood and the beginning of a new chapter entering adulthood."
Don’t forget to pick-up a copy of the Hernando Sun on June 5, when we print a special section commemorating graduates. There’s still time to contribute photos, special memories and messages of support. Go to hernandosun.com/2020grads