Remembering a Parking Lot Graduation

This year’s graduating class is not the first to have a non-traditional ceremony due to construction.


Photo Submitted

Class graduate of 1986 and now current Dallastown high school teacher, Mr. Ilyes, gives his speech in front of his class on graduation night out in the parking lot due to track renovations.

While Dallastown’s Class of 2023 is frustrated that they are unable to have a traditional Wildcat Stadium graduation, they are not the only DHS seniors that were unable to get their diploma on their home stadium turf.

This year’s ceremony will be held indoors at the York Expo center due to construction at the stadium 

Similarly, due to renovations to update the gravel track to a new all-weather track, the Class of 1986, graduated in the parking lot between what is now the 300-wing and the stadium. 

Current high school teachers Mr. Ilyes, Mrs. Dallmeyer, and Senora Garrett along with middle school teachers Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Andrews were a part of the class that graduated in this unique location.

Despite the very different environment for the graduation ceremony, they made do with what they had.

 “We thought it made us a bit special… the only DAHS class to have ever graduated from the parking lot,” Ilyes said.

Mr. Ilyes smiles for a photo after graduation festivities concluded despite the unusual location. (Photo Subnitted)

Ilyes was one of the speakers at graduation who got to participate in the speech theme of “1968-1986”.

This particular speech theme was chosen since many of the students were born in ‘68 and then graduated in ‘86.

Even though the ‘86 ceremony was in a different location, there were still many similarities to previous graduation ceremonies, such as the graduates’ procession past the spectators with the “Pomp and Circumstance” song in the background.

“We actually used the speed bumps to make sure we were lined up with the people in the other row that was processing. We spent much more time practicing how to make everything line up perfectly in those days prior to the ceremony,” Ilyes said.

Dallmeyer remembers the unique layout as well.

“I remember that seating for our parents and guests went the entire way up the parking lot, and the stage was at the bottom of it, where we, the graduates, were seated,” Dallmeyer said.

Overall, the graduates had  positive things to say about graduation

“I thought it was pretty cool, and since I never graduated before, I really had nothing to compare it to,” Zimmerman said.

High school teacher and graduate of Class of 1986, Mrs. Dallmeyer after she receives her diploma from graduation. (Photo Submitted)

Graduation is an important event, and this one, in particular, was one to remember including the evening following the ceremony.

“My favorite memory was the post-graduation party. There were games, swimming in the pool, raffle drawings, a hypnotist, and someone won a car! I think we were there until 2 or 3 AM,” Garrett said.

Since that class was significantly smaller then this year’s, holding this year’s ceremony in the parking lot is not an option.

But, here is some advice from the Class of ’86 to the Class of ’23.

“What makes graduation ‘Special’ is that your most important people are there to help you celebrate – it really doesn’t matter where it is held. In the end, your pictures of that day don’t show the field or the stadium or the venue, they show the PEOPLE that graduated and their proud family members and lifelong friends. That’s what matters. The People,” Dallmeyer said.