A group that has celebrated the Pickerington Local School District and its graduates for more than a century will miss a milestone commemoration this spring and will hold its final annual banquet in 2021.
For decades, the annual Pickerington Alumni Association banquet was a high time featuring bands, dancing and dinner.
But for the better part of the past 30 years, as the Pickerington community has grown and competing organizations and activities have emerged, it has been a struggle for the association's board of directors and volunteers to get people to attend the once-a-year celebration.
This year, the association was looking forward to celebrating its 110th anniversary at the banquet. But the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and Gov. Mike DeWine's stay-at-home order forced the cancellation of the event, which had been slated for June 6 at the Pickerington Senior Center.
So there will be one more Pickerington Alumni Association banquet, and it's scheduled for June 5, 2021.
"We already had designated that next year will be the last alumni banquet," said Keith Ebright, a 1966 graduate of Pickerington High School and Pickerington Alumni Association board member. "We had already been saying that the last couple of years.
"Nobody wants to step up and take over. The sad thing is, not many younger people come."
When Pickerington was a smaller community and there were smaller graduating classes, the alumni banquet was a tradition.
Ebright said for many years graduating seniors were required to attend the event.
"We've tried different music to bring people in, different activities to draw people into the banquet," he said. "There's just so many more activities going on now.
"We've been asking for probably five years for additional help. The last two years, we've been saying the 2021 banquet would be the last."
In addition to the annual party and being a source of community-building and pride, the alumni association has provided financial help to graduating seniors as they ventured off to college.
Each year, the association hands out three scholarships to local graduates.
Since 1999, it's given 68 scholarships valued at more than $66,000, Ebright said.
Money for the scholarships comes from donations from graduates.
The scholarships are awarded at the banquet, and each year the association honors classes celebrating their 50 and 75 year graduation anniversaries.
Additionally, an Alumnus of the Year is recognized.
"We will double up next year on the classes we honor and we'll have an Alumnus of the Year," Ebright said. "We hope to have a bigger celebration next year."
In the meantime, the association's board of directors has had discussions with Pickerington Schools officials about handing over the reins to the association or allowing them to create a new alumni group.
Pickerington Schools board member Lori Sanders said the Pickerington Education Foundation began working with Ebright more than a year ago.
"At that time, we hoped to bridge a time period until they decided how long they wanted to continue doing the alumni banquet and activities," Sanders said. "We have been supportive in the activity.
"We have had several conversations regarding the foundation's role moving forward and look forward to working together.
"We recognize the vast undertaking or connecting with our alumni and understand that this will be an ongoing process."