May 19, 2021
Event producer John Oakes and Osprey Parent Radiance Beals at our walk through on site this morning
Sketch of the ceremony set up
Animas High School Class of 2021 Graduation
We’re REALLY excited for your graduation ceremony in just 9 days!

We've received the official okay from the county and I spent this morning out at the venue, putting the finishing touches on our graduation plans with John Oakes and his crew. The ceremony location is stunning, with the snow-capped La Plata Mountains as the backdrop (as you can see in my feeble artistic rendering, above). There is no shelter at the venue, and we suggest being prepared for weather--pack a raincoat and a sun hat and hope for the best!

The graduation ceremony will be held at event organizer John Oakes' Ranch at 10778 County Road 120 in Hesperus at 4:00 on Friday, May 28 and will be tailgate-style, with families setting up and viewing the ceremony from parking spots while graduates and faculty sit in socially-distanced chairs up front.

Arrival and Parking Instructions
Each family should arrive at the ranch, which is a 25 minute drive from AHS, by 3:15pm. Each student will only be allowed to park one vehicle unless we have approved your request for two cars through the Graduation RSVP Form. We expect the ceremony to be complete by 5:30pm and a car parade through downtown Durango will follow.

Seniors--please arrive wearing your cap with tassel, gown and gold stole. You will receive your caps and gowns at Senior Supper the night before graduation at AHS, 6-8pm. Your tassel should be on your right side for the duration of the ceremony, until Sean instructs you to move it at the end. Wear comfortable shoes that work walking on uneven ground and feel free to decorate your caps.

Upon arrival at the ranch, you will be directed to a parking spot. Larger vehicles will be parked to the side and back so as to maximize sight lines to the stage area. Guidance will be provided throughout the entire parking process. Turn your motor off once parked and set up your tailgate area. We encourage you to get creative--decorate your car and bring camp chairs and decor for your tailgate party!

Once parked, seniors should make their way to the front where we will help everyone line up in alphabetical order to the side so they are prepped to walk onstage as a class once the ceremony begins. We'll circulate throughout the venue to distribute the AHS Senior Celebration Booklet to families.

PLEASE NOTE that under no circumstances will vehicles be permitted to depart the area before the conclusion of the entire ceremony. There will be port-a-potties on site.

Graduation Ceremony Program
Typically, we would have a graduation rehearsal prior to the ceremony but that’s not an option this year, so please read through the following ceremony outline a few times!

The ceremony will begin promptly at 4:00. We will begin with seniors Lindsay Levine and Alyssa Nicoly singing the National Anthem, followed by Sean’s welcome. Student speakers Britt Autry, Billie Brand and Rosie Gurnee will be followed by faculty speakers Steve Smith and Lori Fisher.

After the speakers, we move into the graduates’ procession to receive their diplomas. Jess Morrison will cue each row to stand when it's their turn. Christine Imming will read names and Stephen Sellers, Ashley Carruth and Jessica McCallum will take turns sharing information about each graduate as they walk to receive their diploma and shake Sean's hand, all to the song they've preselected as their personal soundtrack. Graduates will then walk from the stage, in front of the staff chairs and over to Bridget Stowers, who will direct them to a pop-up tent where Karen Skelly will take individual photos with diplomas. Bridget will direct graduates after their photo to proceed behind the first row of cars and back to Jess, who will help them make their way back to their seats.

Each student’s song submission will be played during their procession. It is not too late to submit your song request! Please email with your song request as soon as possible.  If a song was not designated or approved in advance, a song will be selected for you. 

After all graduates receive their diplomas, Sean will close the ceremony, inviting the AHS class of 2021 to flip tassels from graduate’s right to left as they officially become alumni.

Social distancing will be maintained throughout the processional and masks will be required throughout the ceremony, though seniors may choose to pull masks down for their photos.
Directions and Post-Ceremony Parade
We recommend you use the following route to get to the venue:

  • from AHS, go 0.3 miles west on Highway 160
  • turn left onto Wildcat Canyon Road/CR 141
  • travel 11.4 miles on CR 141
  • turn right onto CR 140 north
  • cross the La Plata River and turn left onto CR 120 (0.6 miles)--look for green and gold balloons at this intersection
  • go 2.7 miles and look for 10778 written on a large rock on the left/south--there will be more balloons here as well as volunteers directing traffic; if CR 120 turns to dirt road, you have gone too far
  • proceed up the driveway to the graduation venue on the right

After the ceremony, volunteers will guide cars to the exit, and folks are encouraged to take the following route to downtown Durango. We will encourage our community to line the route an cheer for the graduates:

  • turn right at the end of the driveway onto CR 120 heading east
  • turn right onto CR 140
  • after 0.6 miles, turn left onto CR 141
  • after 11.4 miles, turn right onto Highway 160 east--wave at AHS as you drive by!
  • turn left onto Camino del Rio
  • turn right onto College Drive
  • right on Main Avenue and disperse!

How can my family and friends who cannot attend the graduation ceremony celebrate with us?  
92.9 The Point KPTE-FM will exclusively broadcast the AHS graduation ceremony both live on their airwaves on 92.9 FM in Durango and via video broadcast streamed on the 929thepoint Facebook Page. Those who are out of town can tune in to the audio broadcast online at Make sure that you let friends and family know! 

You may also share the parade route with friends and family and encourage them to cheer as graduates drive by approximately between 5:30 and 6:00!

Community Partners and Sponsors
This unique and special graduation ceremony would not be possible without the help and support from so many amazing individuals, volunteers and companies! Please be sure to find a way to thank the following supporters, and stay tuned for a full list coming soon:

  • national event producer John Oakes, who lives locally, and produces local events Four Corners Motorcycle Rally held annually over Labor Day Weekend and Silverton Skijoring held annually over Presidents Day Weekend. John was also the mastermind behind last summer's drive-in movies in downtown Durango.

  • Natalie at Adela Floral for creating floral arrangements for the ceremony. Please call Natalie at (970) 828-8000 or email if you would like to donate money to pay for an arrangement at the ceremony!

  • Bear at Durango Balloon Company for donating balloons to help us all find the venue! Call Bear at (808) 398-6255 if you'd like to order balloons to decorate your car or home.

I'm looking forward to sitting in on TED Talks this week and next as the class of 2021 wraps up their time at AHS. It's been quite a journey for this group of Ospreys and I'm excited to help celebrate them with you all!