Ceremonies began at 8 p.m. with the sun low in the sky but with temperatures lingering in the low 90s. Bottled water was handed out to visitors at the CHS stadium gates due to the heat.
Underclassmen members of the marching band played the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" as the graduates arrived in the stadium. The National Anthem was sung by Ashley Lewis, winner of the recent Cedartown Idol (Northwest Georgia Idol) talent contest.
The audience, faculty and students were welcomed by Kyle Roggow, senior class president.
"Congratulations Class of 2012, we have made it to graduation!" Roggow exclaimed.
Roggow went on to express thanks for all current and former members of the U.S. military, remarking that they are "the true heroes who make this country great." He asked members of the audience who have served in the armed forces or who currently were in active or reserve duty to stand. Several dozen people stood and were met with applause from the audience.
Roggow's speech was interrupted briefly by a bad battery in the wireless microphone system. Once sound was restored, Roggow quipped that he had just experienced "my most embarassing moment" and was glad that he could now "check that off my list."
The class president was followed by CHS Principal Hal David. His address noted the historic nature of this year's commencement exercises as the 125th for Cedartown High School, founded in 1887.
David noted there were "many success stories on this field." He congratulated students for their achievements and also thanked faculty for being there when students needed their support.
"They refused to let them fail," David said. "They picked them up when they felt defeated."
David noted that this year's graduation class numbered 197 seniors. This includes 62 honor graduates, who maintained grade point averages of 89.5 and above for all four years of high school.
The highest gradepoint averages were maintained by Rachel Marie "Ree" Palmer, this year's valedictorian, and Maria Rodriguez, the salutatorian.
David introduced Palmer and Rodriguez and their parents, who hung the medallions around their daughters' necks.
The pair shared a moment, giving each other a congratulatory hug, before presenting the salutatorian and valedictorian addresses.
Rodriguez noted some of the memorable events from the past four years of school. She congratulated the sports teams, noting both the football team and competition cheerleaders earned spots in the top 10 at state level competition.
"We also have a state wrestling champ sitting among us today," Rodriguez said. That prompted cheers from her fellow students for fellow graduate Leo Cordero, a AAA Wrestling Champion.
Rodriguez kept her comments short, because she repeated them in Spanish, before turning the microphone over to Palmer.
In her valedictorian address, Palmer also made note of memorable events at CHS. She said it was difficult to define the Class of 2012, noting the diversity of student experiences.
Some students work 30 hours a week at a job while attending school, she said. Some are balancing motherhood and classwork. Still others attended school 12 years ago unable to speak a word of English, Palmer noted, yet they had persevered and were on the field graduating today.
Palmer noted the 62 honor graduates amounted to nearly a third of the graduating class. She also praised the 12 students "dedicated to service to our country," who had signed up for military service after high school.
The ceremony continued with David formally presenting the graduating class to Superintendent of Schools Marvin Williams. Diplomas were then presented, first to the honor graduates and then to the rest of the Class of 2012.
Jordan McLendon closed by leading the crowd in singing the school's alma mater, followed by closing remarks from the Book of Hebrews and an invocation.