Montclair High School classes catching up on reunions delayed by COVID
COURTESY TOI BLOUNT/ALL CLASS REUNION COMMITTEE
The COVID-19 pandemic caused many celebrations — weddings, proms, birthday parties, graduations — to be postponed, modified or canceled altogether in 2020 and 2021.
That applied to high school reunions as well.
But now, several of Montclair High School’s graduating classes, which would have celebrated milestone reunions in 2020 and 2021, are trying to make up for lost time.
This summer and fall, several classes are planning (or replanning) reunion parties.
With the start of the pandemic came restrictions on public gatherings, both indoor and outdoor. The restrictions meant that a lot of parties, weddings and other celebrations either had to go virtual or be greatly scaled back.
Pallas Bowers grew up in Montclair and graduated from MHS in 1980. She moved back to Montclair from Chicago just before the pandemic began.
Bowers had not lived in Montclair for 25 years, and she was looking forward to her class’s 40th reunion, a perfect way to get to know everyone again, she said. But the pandemic, and the ensuing lockdown and restrictions, put everything on hold.
The Class of 1980 has its rescheduled party set for July 15 at The Highlawn at Eagle Rock Reservation, after COVID forced the party to be put on hold twice.
“Everybody is trying to get theirs in this year,” Bowers said. “And it’s sort of a rush because these COVID numbers start going up as we get into the fall.”
She said there was one venue the class had been looking at for the reunion, only to find out that it had closed and been sold. Another complication was ticket prices; prices had gone up due to venues’ needs.
Bowers said that a lot of the reunion planners had been in touch with each other on social media, and had been sharing tips and resources: suppliers, party planners and so forth.
Generally, she said, people were excited about the prospect of going to in-person parties. “I think people want to gather, and they want to go to weddings again,” she said.
Ellie Bagli, who is one of the organizers for the Class of 1972 reunion on Sept. 17, said there were a lot of considerations: “Should we have it outside? Should we have it inside? Should we do summer? Should we do fall?” The group eventually opted for the Ridgefield Regency in Verona.
“At some point, you’ve got to go for it,” Bagli said.
The Class of 1990, which would have celebrated its 30th reunion in 2020, had planned a multiday event, with blocks of hotel rooms set aside for guests, brunch and a gathering at Tierney’s.
But COVID-19 forced it to cancel. “We’ve been basically planning it for three years,” said Joy Spiotta, one of that class’s organizers.
At one point, the class held a virtual happy hour over Zoom in lieu of an in-person gathering. “Those things just aren’t the same,” Spiotta said.
The Class of 1990 will have a table at the All Class Reunion July 16 at Edgemont Park during the day, and then have an evening event at the Montclair Women’s Club on Union Street.
Spiotta noted that 1990 was the first year that MHS had a Project Graduation program. That year, each student received a “Friends for Life” T-shirt. So the committee had a replica of that T-shirt made for the reunion.
Besides Montclair High School, another township school marked a special reunion of sorts this summer.
Glenfield Middle School celebrated its 125th anniversary with a party on June 12. The school was founded in 1896 as the Maple Avenue School. The attendees included current and former students and their families, faculty, staff, school administrators and local and state dignitaries.
The day included a panel talk on Glenfield’s history, from its beginnings as a school serving mainly students from Irish, Italian and African American families to its role in desegregation and the start of Montclair’s magnet program, in which it is a performing arts magnet school.
One of the biggest class reunion parties in Montclair is the every-two-years All Class Reunion. The idea for it came about after it was noticed that East Orange held such a reunion, Robin Curry, one of the lead organizers for the reunion, recalled. The All Class Reunion has been a tradition in Montclair since 2009 and usually takes place in an even-numbered year, she said.
“We had no idea how successful it would be,” Curry said. In a typical year, upwards of 1,000 people attend.
Each year, she said, the organizers try to choose a location in Montclair, which usually means one of the town’s parks. Nishuane Park had been a favorite venue for the reunion in the past, but this year construction is taking place there.
Curry said that the All Class Reunion typically doesn’t have a full schedule of events. There will be some music, either from a DJ or musicians, and there will be chances for alumni to get group photos with their class year. But mostly it’s a chance for everyone to socialize as they see fit.
Some people set up tents and picnic sites early in the morning, go home or run errands, and then come back later on for the reunion, she said.
One year, a drone took a picture of all of the attendees arranged in a giant letter M.
The reunion is open to anyone, people who graduated, people who didn’t, people who have friends who went to MHS, and even people who didn’t know anyone who went to MHS.
“It’s a big family reunion,” Curry said.