Members of the Class of 2020 participated in a socially distanced golf cart parade in River Hills on May 31.

We all have memories of graduations—whether our own or of our friends and family—but no doubt that the Class of 2020 will have completely different memories than the ones of the past. With all of the social distancing guidelines in place, many of this year’s graduates didn’t get to participate in some of the most traditional of events: graduation, parties, prom, senior skip day, pranks on the principal—and the list could go on and on.

Valrico’s River Hills neighborhood wanted to provide an event that would be memorable for their resident graduates. Representing several schools in the area (and homeschool too), the River Hills Class of 2020 Senior Parade became a reality on May 31. The 25 entries in the parade were asked to have a dedicated driver to focus on safety so the graduate could focus on the fun.

Decorated vehicles included sports cars, convertibles, golf carts, pickup trucks and sedans with moonroofs that came in handy, and prizes were awarded for Best Decorated, Most Spirited and Crowd Favorite. The graduates all dressed accordingly in their cap and gown, prom attire, senior sports team uniform or logoed attire of where they’re headed next.

“Most of the grads were from high school, but let’s not forget our VPK and college grads too,” said Julie Rule, chair of the River Hills Social Team.

To kick off the parade during the vehicle lineup, official photos were taken by a neighborhood photographer and fist bumps and elbow knocks (all in accordance with current social distancing guidelines) were passed out by River Hills HOA President Paul Brooks.

In attendance with him were Newsome High School Principal Carla Bruning and Spoto High School Principal Denise Savino. Each graduate was also given a goody bag filled with donated items from residents, area small businesses, the neighborhood HOA and River Hills Country Club.

“Residents were encouraged to turn out along the parkway with their signs and noisemakers, and they certainly did,” said Rule.

Chairs, blankets, coolers, food, drinks and pets helped pass the time as the spectators waited for the parade to pass them by. Volunteers estimate that at least 300 residents lined the parkway to cheer on the grads as drivers honked their horns and grads waved to the crowd while the parade made its way through the neighborhood.

“In this uncertain time of social distancing and our new normal, this memory is one that we hope lasts a lifetime,” said Rule.