As a steady rain fell outside, Brainerd High School's Class of 2008 stood together for the last time, an ocean of blue that nearly filled the entire high school gym floor.
The 555 graduates can boast they are the largest class to graduate from BHS in recent history.
School administrators were forced to conduct the 121st annual commencement ceremony indoors because of the inclement weather. The gym held more than 3,000 occupants during the ceremony with rows and rows of family members and friends sitting closely together to watch. The nearby gymnastics and choir rooms also were open for overflow seating, where more than 120 people watched a live television broadcast of the ceremony.
"It's unfortunate the weather didn't cooperate with us but we're going to have a good time anyway," BHS principal Erich Heise told the crowd.
Kimberly Miller waved to her family during commencement exercises Thursday at Brainerd High School.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
But graduates appeared to be having too much of a good time during BHS assistant principal Andrea Rusk's welcome address, interrupting her speech with disruptive behavior.
Rusk stopped speaking several times as graduates tossed about a dozen beach balls back and forth. Graduates also threw a couple of inflatables that were sexually inappropriate at various times during the ceremony.
"Your friends and family are here to support you and they don't want to be here for four hours," Rusk told the graduates, which drew applause from those seated in the bleachers.
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The ceremony also showcased several of the Class of 2008's talented classmates. Senior speakers included valedictorian Christopher Dens, senior class president Mary Petersen, Jace Crowe and Travis Cizek. MEN, a quartet featuring graduates Jace Crowe, Ryan Fellman, Joshua Hermerding and Matthew Houle, performed "The Longest Time."
The crowd was also entertained by graduate Koreann Martin, who sang and played guitar during "Something Only You Can Do," joined by fellow musicians and graduates Ryan Finch and Zach Schneider.
Superintendent Jerry Walseth, who will retire next month after serving nine years in the district, told graduates that they hold a special place in his heart.
"You will always be in my heart because I finally graduate in the Class of 2008 and what a class it is," said Walseth.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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