Jun. 6—Editor's note: This column was originally published in 2014. It has been updated.
Invitations. Balloons. Barbecues. Congratulations cards. Memorabilia. Photographs from across the years. Pig races.
High school commencement time in Madison County and across Indiana ain't what it used to be. It's much, much more.
When I stumbled through high school in the mid-1980s, graduation parties came in two varieties: the kind your parents organized, and the kind your parents knew nothing about.
At the former, folks stood around for a couple of hours sipping soft drinks and talking. Meanwhile, the clandestine graduation parties offered an excuse to drink beer and raise hell. Any excuse would do, back in the day.
Now, just as my generation has infiltrated Facebook, parents have moved decisively to quash the underground parties. They've done this, essentially, with bribery.
What kid could turn down an all-expenses-paid party with tons of food, live music and hundreds of guests — all bearing gifts? It's not unusual these days for a grad party to reap a couple G's for the honoree.
But we shouldn't be cynical about it.
High school commencement is the culmination of 13 years (sometimes more!) of education. Graduates who have come up through the grades together have an extraordinary connection. Some love each other. Some don't. Some have been there to embrace in times of triumph and to grieve with in times of loss.
Commencement, really, is a pretty big deal, worthy of extravagant parties.
At my nephew's graduation hoedown, we grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and treated an unending line of people to an array of potato salads, chip dip and even vegetable and fruit trays.
Many of my nephew's guests tripled their body weight that day, eating their way through the local circuit of gluttony, from graduation party to graduation party. Even when you're stuffed, you don't turn up your nose at miniature meatballs and weenies.
That brings us to the pig races at my nephew's party.
Cramming hot dogs into our mouths, we leaned against an enclosed, wood-floored pen and cheered on three little pigs that scrambled through a course of twists and turns to trot across the finish line.
I have a theory that the more staid and formal the event, the more elaborate the celebration that follows. Perhaps that's what's happening with graduations. Commencement exercises seem to be longer, more conservative, choreographed right down to the collective moving of the tassel.
Swine competitions — the yin to commencement's yang — restore the world's natural balance.
We'll leave it to you to take your own pictures at graduation parties, but The Herald Bulletin is making the rounds at local high school graduations this spring to shoot photos. These can be found at heraldbulletin.com/multimedia/photos/.
While notoriously absent pig-race pictures, our galleries offer hundreds of photos of students completing the last leg of their long journey from kindergarten through senior year.
Editor Scott Underwood's column appears Mondays. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @THBeditor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 640-4845.