It was standing room only inside the White Pine Chamber of Commerce on Monday evening.
As the head of the class reunions committee Richard Howe worked his way through a meeting agenda, more people continued to arrive, packing themselves in and standing in the doorway.
Not that Howe minded, he knows he’ll need all the help he can get to pull off the biggest class reunion event ever put on in town.
“This is a big one. Everybody wants to be involved in the big ones,” Howe said.
White Pine High School alumni from the graduating classes of 1945, 1955, 1965, 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2005 will pack into Ely over the Fourth of July weekend for three days of music, dancing, food and reminiscing.
According to Howe, this year’s group of reunions has been in the planning stages for nearly five years.
“We do a big event for the reunions about every five years. I remember starting to think of things to do for the 2015 reunions shortly after the 2010 ones ended,” he said.
Things are set to kick off on Thursday, July 2 with a gathering around a bonfire in the west end of town. A DJ will play music while those in attendance can enjoy a no host bar and food. In commemoration of the weekend’s festivities, the “WP” letters that overlook the town will be lit up for the entire weekend.
Friday and Saturday will offer attendees of the reunions a charter bus that will take them to and from their hotels as well as to major points of interest in town. Golf tournaments will be held at the White Pine Golf Course on both days and a seven-piece band featuring two WPHS graduates will perform each evening. The reunions will also tie into the annual Fourth of July parade, with floats from each of the old schools that used to be in town as well as the 1968 and ’69 state championship high school football team.
“It’s going to be a show,” Howe said.
But there is more to the weekend than just spectacle and fun.
According to Lorraine Clark, who is acting as the publicist for the planning committee, the massive influx of people into the town will provide a “major revenue source” for businesses and non-profit organizations across Ely. Many different organizations have already signed up for a chance to be involved with the weekend’s events, including the Learning Bridge Charter School, who will sell hamburgers out of Pete’s Drive In as a fundraiser.
“When you live this far out in the middle of nowhere, you have to make a real effort to make something for people to come and do,” Clark said.
Howe agreed, arguing that those that grew up in Ely are always looking for a good reason to come back home.
“No matter where you live, if you grew up here, this is your home. This is a chance to come back and give back to the community that raised you and every dime that we make doing it stays right here in town,” he added.
The committee has already sent out over 3,000 letters to alumnus and Howe said that it is realistic to expect more than 1,000 will attend.
Housing for that many people is going to be one of the biggest challenges over the holiday weekend, according to the committee, but that could be eased by many of the people returning to town staying with relatives or friends that never left.
While there are still aspects of the weekend that are being planned, including a possible flyover on July 3 as part of the veteran’s memorial service, Howe said that the committee is now mostly “dotting i’s and crossing t’s” but anyone that would still like to get involved and help out still can. Wayne Cameron at the Chamber of Commerce said he is still looking for volunteers to help out at the different events and that those interested should sign up at the chamber.
The next committee meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled to take place at the Chamber of Commerce on April 13 at 6 p.m.