More than 150 carloads of patrons celebrated Fort Knox Middle High School’s Class of 2020 at temporary free impromptu drive-in movie theater set up in the main Exchange parking lot May 1 in honor of the graduating seniors.
The event featured 40-foot inflatable screen, showing of Jumanji – The Next Level and free popcorn. Food and drinks were also delivered to vehicles from the Exchange food court. Attendees sported signs and decorated their vehicles congratulating graduating seniors.
After being discussed at a garrison town hall meeting April 14, the idea was proposed to local Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials, who enlisted the help of Knox Hills, the installation’s privatized housing partner, to identify the resources needed to make the event happen.
“We loved the idea brought forward from the community, and anything we could do to help improve the community spirit – we are all in,” said Ellen Henderson, general manager for AAFES at Fort Knox. “A drive-in movie was a great way we could host an event that kept people separated in their own individual spaces.”
Knox Hills officials, who traditionally have celebrated the graduating class each year, found the idea to be just the thing to congratulate this year’s seniors in light of current restrictions.
“It is extremely important to support our residents by finding meaningful and entertaining ways to stay connected to one another, and we’ve worked hard to continue our connection with residents,” said John Bredehoeft, project manager for Knox Hills. “The business closures and stay-at-home orders, stemming from COVID-19, have caused special events, such as high school graduation ceremonies, to halt. But life doesn’t stop.”
Fort Knox Middle High School Senior Class President Renaecia Deleon-Guerrero appreciated the effort that went into planning the event.
“This has been really nice, and it’s been so good to get out of the house and to see our friends and classmates,” said Deleon-Guerrero. “This is what our senior year has come to, and we were really bummed, especially as we’ve gotten closer to graduation. This has really pepped our spirits – it’s great to know the community cares, and that we’re loved.”
Parents also appreciated the gesture. Some suggested the change offered a surprisingly positive result.
“If it had been a normal year, we wouldn’t have put thought or effort into unique ways to honor the seniors, and it’d have been the same old thing that gets done every year,” said Patti Harden. Her daughter, Nicole, graduates this year. “While we miss the traditional things, I like that they’ve gone above and beyond to create new ways to celebrate the occasion.”
The unconventional setup proved perfect for the current conditions, according to one moviegoer.
“It was a great way to get everyone together without getting everyone together,” said Brian Mason, father to sophomore Jill Mason. “With everything that’s going on right now, this was pretty cool – and needed.”