The curse of graduation party season

A couple of new panels of the fence that separates my and my neighbor’s house appeared a few weeks ago. This weekend, the blacktop driveway sealer people did their thing on his driveway (psst: that stuff doesn’t do anything). The poor guy has been out mowing every few days. New flower beds are being put in and the place looks great. It must be costing him a fortune to spruce the joint up.

Is he about to sell the place? No. His youngest is graduating from high school and he’s gotten sucked into the high-school graduation party syndrome. It’s not enough to throw a small get-together with some brats on the grill in the backyard. You’ve got to pretty much redecorate the home first.

A high school graduation, of course, is a big deal and needs to be celebrated.But, like the issue of the prom dress, how far is too far?

Willmar’s West Central Tribune gave us an idea of what makes a “great” graduation party in an article last week:

These days, however, many families are choosing to go beyond the basics and add those extra details. Grand Rental Station in Willmar, which has rented out tables, chairs and tents for area graduations since 1998, has recently added some miscellaneous items to its inventory that are popular at graduation parties, including a popcorn maker, sno-cone maker and cotton candy machine.

“A lot of people want to do concession items,” said Kevin Wall, customer service specialist at Grand Rental. “More and more, we see people wanting to be more extravagant. They’re splurging for those extra items.”

Don’t forget the DJ for the music.

And, the article says, if you’re a parent of a junior in high school, you best start planning the grad party now.

Let’s face it: Many of these parties are a cash grab. Perhaps you’ve even got a stack of invitations on the table from people whose kid you only nominally know. Maybe they’re all scheduled for the same day so you’re scheduling a day of running to parties, dropping off cash, asking where they’re going to go to college, and then trying to figure out a graceful way to get out and on to the next party.

Miss Manners has an odd solution. Skip all of the other parties and then throw one of your own for the entire senior class.

That would be such a show of goodwill that your declining others’ invitations will not be held against you. Besides, your friends will be too busy worrying whether presents for everyone are expected (and if asked, you can reassure them that no, this party is just for fun).

Mindful of your plea of limited means, Miss Manners excuses you from inviting the parents, on the grounds of not subjecting them to a teenage party, which is the nice way of saying that the teenagers will have more fun without them. That means that you won’t be serving liquor and sophisticated food. It should be a lot cheaper than those checks you might have written.

In her article, “How to Plan A High School Graduation,” Paige Carlotti offers some alternatives to knocking yourself out to rebuilding your home to impress a lot of people that, let’s face it, are going to be a distant memory soon.

There are plenty of ways to go about celebrating the end of an era, and now more than ever is the time to get creative with it. Who knows when will be the next time you have the free time to hiking in the mountains or have a lazy weekend on the beach? Jeannie Shen, a senior at Walter Johnson High School, decided this alternative better suited their desires.

“I’m planning a hiking trip with my friends. We’ll hike up a trail and then have a picnic afterwards while we exchange gifts for each other,” said Jeannie.

Another alternative to the standard backyard grad party is to go out to dinner to your favorite restaurant with your family and a few close friends. This is low stress and low maintenance but will still provide you with the lasting memories and sense of accomplishment that any graduation party is expected to deliver.

A nice dinner with friends? Cheaper than painting the driveway.