WENATCHEE — It was a beautiful night in the Wenatchee Valley Friday as both Eastmont and Wenatchee high schools celebrated their class of 2021 graduation ceremonies, Wenatchee in the Apple Bowl and Eastmont at Wildcat Stadium.
Eastmont graduates entered Wildcat Stadium from the east and west gates with the girls dressed in red and the boys in blue. Wenatchee graduates entered the Apple Bowl from the west end zone dressed in purple. Both schools entered with traditional graduation music playing.
What a difference a year makes.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced both schools to hold virtual graduation ceremonies. This year, the ceremonies were in-person — albeit with many precautions for the ongoing pandemic.
“Obviously, social distancing and some of the COVID regulations are still in play,” said Diana Haglund, a Wenatchee School District spokesperson. “We did have to limit the number of people who came to the Apple Bowl, so that is a little bit different.”
Masking was required at both graduation ceremonies. Graduates for each school were afforded four tickets each. There were 450 graduates for Wenatchee and 460 graduates for Eastmont.
Those in attendance were seated in pods of four in both locations, on the field and in the stands.
“In our bleachers and on the field, we have pods of four seats where families can sit with six feet of distance between them. That was quite a chore mapping all that out,” said Eastmont High School Assistant Principal Stacia Hardie, “That way a family unit can get together.”
Both schools also had large screens at each location to allow those distant to see the speakers better but also display the prerecorded parts of the program. Wenatchee presented a pre-recorded speech by Alumni of the Year Heidi Schreck. And all of the musical performances, which would normally be presented live, were pre-recorded for the big screen.
Normally, Eastmont graduation is held at Town Toyota Center but due to COVID-19 restrictions, Hardie said they decided to hold the ceremony at the Wildcat Stadium.
For Wenatchee, having the ceremony at the Apple Bowl was all about maintaining a longtime tradition.
“It feels more normal and that feels really good just to have the students be able to enjoy the traditions we have enjoyed for so many years. The fact of being on the field at the Apple Bowl really is a moment in our graduates’ lives that they look forward to. It’s just a location but it is more than that,” Haglund said.
While both ceremonies were different because of the many COVID regulations, the seniors were able to enjoy the typical activities leading up to graduations.
Many Wenatchee seniors arrived at school graduation morning in traditional style — on roller skates, roller blades, scooters, skateboards and bicycles. They also brought back their senior walk through Wenatchee High School surrounded by their peers and staff. After that, the seniors enjoyed a parent celebration before graduation rehearsal.
Eastmont seniors had their senior scooter ride down Eastmont. Then, they had their senior celebration with parents before the graduation rehearsal on Thursday morning. On Wednesday, there was an awards ceremony for seniors in Wildcat Stadium and that night was prom.
On graduation night, Eastmont announced their boy and girl of the year. Max Prazer was the Boy of the Year and Makenna Schwab (who is featured on Page A9), was the Girl of the Year.
OLYMPIA — All Washington residents who receive a COVID-19 vaccine will be entered into a lottery with four weekly drawings of $250,000 and one final $1 million prize, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.
The lottery is part of a larger vaccine incentive program that includes other prizes such as college tuition assistance, sports tickets, airline tickets and gift cards.
All residents who have been vaccinated already are eligible and don’t have to do anything to enter.
The drawings will come from the Department of Health’s vaccination database. Anyone else who wishes to become eligible only needs to get their first shot, Inslee said, but it may take up to three days for their name to appear in the DOH database.
“We are providing a shot of a lifetime in this incentive package,” Inslee said Thursday.
Inslee set a goal for 70% of people 16 and older to receive at least one dose. If the goal is met, the state can reopen before June 30. As of Wednesday, almost 63% of people 16 and up have received at least one dose.
Inslee said the state will reopen on June 30 even if the state does not hit the 70% vaccination goal, but he is hoping these new vaccine initiatives will help the state get there sooner.
Starting Tuesday, the state lottery will conduct one $250,000 drawing every week for four weeks for all vaccinated individuals. At the end of the four weeks, on July 13, the lottery will conduct an additional, final drawing of $1 million.
The funding is a mixture of state funds and federal COVID-19 relief funds, but Washington State Lottery Director Marcus Glasper said the exact breakdown is still being worked out.
Glasper said each name in the vaccine database will be converted to a number, and the lottery’s random number generator will draw numbers each week. The department will then contact the winner who will have three days to claim their prize.
There will be two drawings every Tuesday: one for those over the age of 18 and one for those ages 12-17.
The state is offering higher education incentives. The state will give $1 million directly to the public four-year universities and two-year community and technical colleges. The institutions can run their own drawing for free tuition and expenses for vaccinated students. The state will offer 30 prizes of one year of tuition college credits for 12- to 17-year-olds.
The incentive program also includes ticket prizes from Alaska Airlines and the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Sounders, Seattle Storm, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Kraken and OL Reign.
The Washington State Department of Commerce, the Association of Washington Business and local chambers of commerce will be handing out gift cards to local businesses at vaccine locations. The state Department of Health will hand out $500,000 in gift cards to retailers at its mobile vaccination clinics.
Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said he hopes the incentive program will encourage people who are “still thinking about it or still on the fence.”
“We want to make sure you do everything you can to go ahead and get vaccinated today,” he said.
Washington joins a dozen other states and President Joe Biden in offering vaccinated residents cash prizes and incentives for getting vaccinated.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine became the first when he announced last month a $1 million prize for five people 18 years and older who receive a COVID vaccine. Five people ages 12-17 will win a four-year, full-ride scholarship to an Ohio state college or university. According to the Ohio Department of Health, vaccinations for those 16 and older increased by 28% the weekend following the lottery announcement.
California is offering $1.5 million each for 10 residents who receive a vaccine while New Mexico is offering $10 million in prizes, including a $5 million grand prize.
Nationally, Anheuser-Busch said it would buy Americans 21 years and older a round of beer if Biden’s vaccination goal of 70% is met.
As of Wednesday, only 41% of the country was fully vaccinated.
WENATCHEE — Led by manufacturing and leisure and hospitality sectors, jobs in Chelan and Douglas counties are on the rebound.
Statistics from the state Employment Security Department for April show dramatic improvement over a year ago, when the pandemic shuttered businesses and the employment rate climbed to 16.1%. This year, April’s employment rate is at 6.4%, showing a return of 5,100 of the nonfarm jobs lost last year.
The region, now recording 44,600 jobs, is still down 1,000 jobs overall from April 2019.
“This upturn was encouraging economic news,” regional economist Don Meseck in his Labor Area Summary report released Thursday. “This April’s 12.9% and 5,100 job increase was the first month in the past 12 months — since the start of COVID-19 related layoffs in April 2020 — in which the labor market registered year-over-year job growth.”
The two industries accounting for the biggest local turnaround are:
Both industries are ahead of statewide percentage increases. Those two sectors also are ahead of the jobs tallied in March, with manufacturing up 100 jobs and leisure and hospitality up 300. Leisure and hospitality jobs were hit harder than any other sector in the Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area, Meseck said. The current total of 5,900 jobs is still down 800 jobs from April 2019’s 6,700 jobs.
The construction industry, also one of the most active in the region, saw a 500-job boost this April compared to last April, but, with 3,000 jobs, was even with the figures from March. That also was the case with retail jobs, which accounted for 6,400 jobs this April, echoing the numbers from the previous month, but up 1,100 jobs (20.8%) from April 2020.
Statewide, retail trade jobs saw a 15.4% gain across all subsectors, which include motor vehicle and parts dealers, building material and garden supply stores, food and beverage stores, general merchandise stores and other retail stores.
Meseck noted that the subsector accounting for more than half of the added retail jobs were in “other retail trade” which are internet shopping firms.