Rain held off until the very end Sunday night, allowing Cedartown High School's annual commencement exercises to take place as scheduled outdoors, in the school's stadium.
Seats and parking lots overflowed as proud parents, friends and others gathered to watch 229 seniors graduate.
Rebekah Anne Tuck, senior class president, welcomed the crowd. CHS Principal Hal David gave the opening remarks and introduced 2010 CHS Valedictorian Krista Patel and Salutatorian Cheyenne Davenport.
Patel remarked on the mixed emotions of graduating from high school. She called it both a sad and joyous occasion -- sad because for many, it means saying goodbye to longtime friends.
"From freshman to senior year, we have each made friends, and we have lost friends as well," Patel said. "As we embark on the next chapter of our lives, our high school friends will continue to make a lasting impression on us.
"Whether we keep in touch with all our friends or not, the memories we made will always stay with us."
She also commented on the many "lessons we learned inside the classroom."
"These lessons could not have been learned without the amazing teachers we have had the past few years," Patel said. "Many of these seniors have teachers to thank for being dedicated enough to ensure they passed their classes.
"If the teachers were not dedicated enough, then many of the students on this field would not be here tonight."
Looking forward to college and beyond, Patel remarked, "No matter how excited I am to begin the next stage of my life -- and trust me, I am excited -- there will always be a small piece of me that will miss Cedartown High School, the people I met here and the memories that were created."
In her salutatorian speech, Davenport thanked her parents for teaching her the importance of "following my dreams and always doing my very best."
She noted that high school graduation marks both an endpoint of a part of their lives, and also the beginning of another phase.
"Out patience and waiting have been rewarded, as every minute of the last 13 years ends here on this field tonight," Davenport said. "However, this isn't just an ending. The word 'commencement' means that this is also a beginning."
Her speech then took fellow graduates back over their years together, which for many students began as "the last graduating class of Northside Kindergarten." Elementary school separated many young friends, but they were brought back together along with many new students in middle school. Those were the years of "our first 'real' dance -- we we so young and nervous," Davenport said.
Then before they knew it, they were freshmen at Cedartown High School.
"We learned quickly that we would have to have each other's back if we were ever going to survive our first year," she recalled.
"Does everybody remember when we were sophomores and watched as the seniors bombed the juniors with vinegar balloons? We were all just standing there thanking God that it wasn't us."
Then came junior year, with increasing attention paid to preparations to graduate. And finally, their last year together, culminating in their final night collected as the Class of 2010.
"Along with all of the fun-filled memories of the last four years, we have also learned a lot," Davenport said. "As a final word, I would like to leave you with this thought: History makes us who we are, but our aspirations make us who we will become.
"So as you go out into the world, whether it be to college, the military or the workforce, always aspire to be the best you can be."
Diplomas were presented to the graduating seniors by David with the assistance of school faculty members Robyn Teems, Vicki Mayes, Dale Tuck, Jenny Wear, Barry Williams and Chris Reaves.
Delane Johnson led students and the crowd in singing the CHS alma mater:
"In the hearts of Cedartown students,
Love shall never lack,
Nor our loyal admiration
For the red and black.
Hail to thee our alma mater,
Let us pledge anew,
Faithful, loyal, willing service,
Cedartown, to you."
CHS graduate Houston Rutledge gave the closing statements and prayer.
Finally, the graduates took part in "the turning of the tassel ceremony." Symbolizing one's transition from candidate to graduate, in this ceremony the tassel, which protocol states should be worn on the right side of one's mortarboard at commencement, is moved to the left side.
As the ceremony came to a close, parents and friends were allowed onto the field for pictures. Just minutes after the official ceremonies ended, clouds that had been threatening rain for the last few minutes of the commencement exercises finally unleashed a torrent of rain, effectively clearing the field and ending the night's events.