Alberta Gaming is driving grads back to the bush

Dangling a carrot in front of a horse’s nose will prompt even the laziest or most stubborn animal to keep moving forward.

Dangling a carrot in front of a horse’s nose will prompt even the laziest or most stubborn animal to keep moving forward.

For many senior high school students, that inspirational carrot is the promise of the June graduation party.

Last week, Red Deer’s Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School graduates had their celebration plans crushed by a call from the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission.

An ALGC representative said liquor inspectors, backed by RCMP members, would inspect the event on Friday evening, forcing parents to cancel the event only hours before the party was scheduled to begin.

In writing this, I tried to put myself back into the shoes of a high school grad for a moment to try to imagine how disappointing that news must have been.

Alberta Liquor and Gaming and the RCMP can’t be expected to publicly declare support for the safe-grad concept, but we should expect that just once a year, in the name of safety and common sense, they’d turn a blind eye and allow these kids this time-honoured rite of passage.

Where I was raised, kids started dreaming about their high school grad from about Grade 7. We’d get excited just talking about it during breaks and at volleyball practice.

As junior high kids, we’d hear tales of the wild, all-night parties held by graduating classes of previous years. By Grade 11, we were actively planning and fundraising for The Big Night.

In years past, small-town grad celebrations were traditionally large-scale bush parties with pickup trucks backed around a massive bonfire. Lots of booze and no chaperones.

When the party ended, some people stumbled off to tents, but many jumped behind the wheel and drove home.

Obviously this chaotic bush-party concept didn’t sit well with most parents, so the idea of a the safe grad was born.

By common definition, ‘safe grad’ basically means allowing graduating students to celebrate with alcohol under the close supervision of adult chaperones — even if some of those students are under the legal drinking age.

We had plenty of support in planning our safe grad. Several parents stepped up to chaperone, provide snacks and transport drunken partygoers home safely.

When the big day came, we anxiously endured the commencement, thanked friends and family for their support, then swapped our tuxedos and gowns for jeans.

Parent volunteers delivered our coolers of beer to the curling rink where a DJ had set up to blast tunes all night long.

At one point, the local RCMP even dropped in just to make sure everything was under control. Satisfied that everyone was safe, they left without arresting anybody.

When we’d had our fill and the music finally stopped at dawn, we were all chauffeured home to our parents. Not one person in our class could be accused of drinking and driving that night.

The fact is, kids are going to party and drink booze on graduation night whether we allow them to or not — let’s not kid ourselves here.

We should be giving our grads a little credit for being responsible enough to plan for a safe celebration.

Instead, we appear to be forcing them back to the bush.

Leo Paré is the Advocate’s online editor.