Photo by Ali Zacker Gale
Simmons Plaza is filled to capacity with teenagers. It’s an annual tradition: Each year’s incoming senior class masses at the plaza, dressed in Sawyer blue, some with painted faces and cars, poses for photos and generally revels in their top-of-the-heap status.
It’s not anarchy, but it is hectic; kids are circling all over, catching up with pals from different friend-groups and grinning at the prospect of their final year of grade school. There’s a huge, red Ford truck carrying an octet or so of blonde girls, who hoist Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffees and scream to no one in particular when the party breaks up after about 15 minutes and all the Sawyers depart for school.
The only order among them is that the brunt of the congregants are wearing blue tie-dye shirts; some of them are black and yellow.
Someone’s brought water balloons, and is throwing them at random. A Nissan burns enough rubber in a celebratory doughnut to kick a cloud of blue smoke over 9W, and scores of kids start flying off to Saugerties High School for their last first day; the screaming girls in the flatbed get there safely in spite of the lack of seatbelts.
“I’m ready to just get back in, get stuff done — I’m ready to wrestle,” said Jamie Pulver. “I just want to do everything right this season.”
The party shifts to the parking lot at Saugerties High School pretty quickly. Administrators are circling the lot with mid-to-high-powered cameras searching for yearbook-ready pics. Students have split off into groups dotting the lot, hanging out in their cliques by their cars. One group of kids hangs out in front of an SUV in front of a vacant parking spot, which is soon filled by what looks to be a lowered 2000 Civic in red.
Sidebar: it is a strange feeling to be reacquainted with kid cars, which are largely Japanese, largely from the early 2000s (Civic, Sentra, Integra, Impreza Protege), largely modified in such a way that makes them rattly and worrisome to see a teenager behind the wheel of, and largely bear Monster Energy Drink or Fox Racing decals. The Saugerties High School parking lot has an uncanny collection of kid cars, one of the best in the area, it could be argued.
While a large portion of the graduating class takes a group photo out front of the high school, the boys in the group address the coming year.
“I think what this school year is going to bring is that — in our last school year — it’s not going to be all fun and games,” said Edward Allison. “We’ve still got to do work. Coming back, it definitely feels different from other years, but at the same time it doesn’t. Of course we met for the senior parade, but we’re still students and we’re still going to do the same thing that everyone else does.”
Tyler Schmidt is hoping for a peaceful year.
“I’m excited because this is my last year. Listen, I just hope to do good and get through the year without any trouble.” He did not elaborate on whether or not he had caused trouble prior to the 2014-15 school year.
“I think this year’s going to be pretty interesting; most of the people here are going to miss everyone,” said Colin van Schaack. “We’re going to be taking our separate paths. It was a pretty nice time. It’s bittersweet. Sometimes it’s like ‘Eh…’ You’re leaving high school, all your friends behind, all those memories. But this year, I’m going to make the most of those memories.”
Not everyone is looking to savor the memories, though. In fact, many Sawyers were more than ready to say goodbye to their alma mater.
“I’m looking forward to applying to colleges and just getting done with this,” said one girl, who fled at the opening bell before giving her name. “I’m just excited to be done.”
Tory Whispell was one of the last to show up to the high school, among the stragglers who either woke up late or were caught in the traffic glut caused by the early-morning meet-up. She seemed less than thrilled to be there.
“I am most looking forward to getting good grades to make sure that I pass, get through, and go to college,” she said, wearily. “Least important to me would be partying. I’m not a party person. It’s not my thing.”
More Day One photos