Drive Thru graduates

Graduates of Shelbyville High School 2020 lined the road on top of Lake Shelbyville Dam on Saturday evening as motorists honored them with a parade.

An hour long parade of vehicles rode the crest of the Lake Shelbyville Dam on Saturday in honor of the Shelbyville High School Graduating Class of 2020.

Sixty-eight 2020 graduates of SHS in caps and gowns lined the Lake Shelbyville Dam Road across the top of the dam, from the gates in the center of the dam, west winding back towards 9th Street. They were spaced more than a social distance apart, each with their own Senior Photo Yard Sign.

The seniors were on the walking path protected by the guard rail between them and the street. Motorists from town, family, friends, and other students paid their respects, bumper to bumper.

The Lake Shelbyville Drive Thru was scheduled from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Fifteen minutes prior to the start, there was almost no traffic at all. A few minutes before 4 p.m., the cars began to appear, then jammed both lanes of the roadway for over an hour.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the traditional graduation ceremony was postponed. That’s when necessity became the mother of invention once again.

“When I first dreamed up the event, I thought it would be a neat way to highlight our beautiful community, while also honoring our graduates in a creative way, during the day that was originally scheduled as their graduation,” said Kyle Ladd, Shelbyville High School Principal, and himself a graduate of SHS.

“There was a great amount of planning that went into this event, in partnership with multiple groups. We worked to ensure that the experience was in compliance with the recommendations of the Illinois State Board of Education from start to finish.”

According to Ladd, the Army Corps of Engineers granted the school district a special use permit.

“We remained in continual contact with the Shelbyville Police Department and Shelbyville Health Department,” Ladd said. “During the experience, we invited a professional photographer, Jamie McDonald, and a professional videographer, Kylie Daniel, to capture footage.”

Drive Thru line-up

Over a quarter of a mile of SHS 2020 graduates stretched along the road atop Lake Shelbyville Dam for a drive by salute on Saturday evening.

According to Ladd, the produced videography has already been viewed thousands of times on Facebook all across the state. The captured photos were freely shared with all parents/guardians.

The weather was the biggest variable for the event. Thunderstorms hung out west of Shelbyville waiting for the event to end, then came in later Saturday evening and returned Sunday, the scheduled rain date.

“Thankfully, the weather held out for us, and the parade of vehicles was seemingly never ending,” Ladd said. “It transformed into a truly one-of-a-kind experience for our seniors and the Shelbyville community.”

Ladd said that the district was committed to creating innovative ways to honor the graduating Class of 2020.

“We are blessed to live in a community where these sort of experiences can be made possible for the students we serve,” Ladd said. “We have amazing students, outstanding parents/guardians, and a supportive community. After we had communicated the details of the event through various platforms, we never had any doubt whether or not our community would respond.”

The experience went so well, it could turn into a new tradition.

Drive Thru honors

Cars flooded the Lake Shelbyville Dam Road to honor 2020 graduates of Shelbyville High School on Saturday evening. The traditional graduation ceremony was postponed.

“Yes, we do plan to continue this unique experience in future years. The response and recognition was phenomenal,” Ladd said. “It is a true testament to the quality of our school district, the students and parents we serve, our partner organizations, and the larger community. The Class of 2020 will always be remembered as the group of kids that started this tradition.”

The school district is planning to have a traditional ceremony on the SHS football field on June 27, with a back-up date of July 25.

John Curtis can be reached at

John Curtis can be reached at

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