Cruising for a design
In less than five months, local high school seniors will fill the McDonald Center with rowdy shouts of celebration as they gather for the annual Grad Blast.
Stretching back more than 25 years, the all-night event offers Chugiak and Eagle River graduates a chance to let loose and party in a safe and chaperoned environment.
Graduates watch movies, dance, participate in outdoor activities, play carnival games and, if this year’s event is anything like last year’s, try their luck in a bucking salmon ride.
And most do so while wearing a brightly colored Grad Blast T-shirt.
According to Gary Montcalm, co-chair of the Grad Blast T-shirt committee, this year’s theme is “Cruise Around the World.” A volunteer committee will choose the winning design.
“We haven’t had a problem finding judges,” Montcalm said.
The winning designer will receive $100 in prize money. Designs can be hand-drawn or submitted in digital format.
“You don’t have to be able to run software. You can sit down and sketch something,” Montcalm said.
The contest is open to Eagle River and Chugiak high seniors, and Grad Blast is open to local seniors and guests.
“We’re trying to make something that belongs to them, that was designed by them,” Montcalm said. “I have a senior myself, and the whole idea is to give them a place to go and reward them for graduation.”
Grad Blast participation veers around 75 percent.
“It’s kind of a community thing, with the two schools coming together,” Montcalm said.
Everyone who purchases a Grad Blast ticket automatically receives a T-shirt printed with this year’s winning design.
“We’ll probably hand out about 350 shirts total,” Montcalm said.
He estimated that the shirts cost about $2,500 to produce.
The students typically wear the shirts during Grad Blast.
“When everyone puts them on, it gives them the sense of being part of something, a shared purpose,” Montcalm said.
Last year’s T-shirt was a lime green so brilliant it was almost neon. This year’s color will depend upon the winning design pattern.
Contributing sponsors are listed on the back of the T-shirts. According to Montcalm, a dozen local merchants typically support Grad Blast.
“We’ve been pretty successful in raising enough money for the event while being able to put some away for the following year’s event,” he said.
Mostly, though, the event and the T-shirts are about rewarding student tradition and commitment.
“It’s about us recognizing them for their accomplishments in school and an opportunity, after 12 years, to blow off a little steam and celebrate with their peers,” Montcalm said.
The Grad Blast T-shirt contest is open to all Chugiak and Eagle River high school students. Designs can be hand-drawn or computer constructed and need to be a single color. This year’s theme is “Cruise Around the World.” Send entries to: [email protected]. Deadline is Feb. 28.
Contact Cinthia Ritchie at 694-2727 or [email protected].