'Celebrities' don aprons for grad party

Tom has helped out with the grad party for years, but this was his first time as a celebrity waiter. Before the guests arrived, nine of us "celebrities" figured out the aprons, clutched order pads and chatted. Quickly it was apparent that the people involved with the post-grad party consider it a calling. I say people, instead of parents, because some continue to volunteer their time long after their children have graduated.

That's the case with Tom and Elaine Bock. Both are on the New Milford Grad Party committee, with no kids in high school anymore; Elaine is in charge of the food for the post-grad party.

They are among about 30 active committee members. The night of the party a few hundred parents and friends will pitch in.

You should see what we do in the school, it's transformed, said Ray Curatolo, president of the grad party committee, also wearing a white apron last Friday as we waited for our luncheon guests.

The committee decorates the gymnasium, hallways, wherever the new grads will be, so that it's an all-night oasis. There's games, videos, prizes, entertainment, and lots and lots of food -- something for everyone. One of the favorite events is the hypnotist Dan LaRosa who can convince students they are boards or other funny things, Ray said.

The party is the night of graduation and a safe way for the newly minted grads to celebrate and be together as a class one last time. It goes right through until morning.

Such an enterprise takes much planning -- the committee gets going in the fall -- and substantial fundraising. A good party, and everyone wants the grads to have the best party, Ray said, costs about $22,000. Donations come from senior parents and businesses, organizations and people in the community. The committee also has fund-raising events, such as a Road Rally and the celebrity luncheon.

Amy Beecher and Robin Viklund, co-chairs of the luncheon, were hoping the money raised that day would be as hefty as the trays we waiters and waitresses would carry. After all, graduation is just a month away.

Sixty people came to the luncheon -- a good show of support -- but if the aroma of the delicious cooking by caterer Maggie Hine had wafted down Railroad Street there certainly would have been more. Fettucini Alfredo, Bourbon Street chicken, and pork loin stuffed with spinach were the entree offerings with touches such as sauces on the meat, sprinkles of fresh parsley, sliced almonds over the pork. A confessed foodie, I was impressed with Maggie's menu and cooking.

Amy and Robin coached we aproned "celebrities" that anything goes serving our tables. In the middle of each table you will notice, they said, a bag for tips.

One year, Amy said, Mayor Pat Murphy removed all the silverware from her table and made the guests pay to get them back.

Well, I didn't do that to the news and advertising staff of The Spectrum and The News-Times at my table. I did let on, though, that if they liked the way I carried three glasses of soda at once they could toss another dollar into the tip bag. (Hey, I saw Tom do the three-glass trick and figured I could, too!)

The luncheon was not only delicious, but also fun. And profitable. Between the tickets and the tips, the committee raised another $2,400 last Friday -- mostly from tips, Amy said graciously.

I feel that I benefited, too. I got to see the community pulling together with a lawyer, veterinarian, insurance agency owner and other business people waiting on tables for the kids. I got to see dozens of parents and business and civic leaders generously tossing in tips.

And I got a glimpse of a very energetic and dedicated group of people in the community that will be making the high school seniors' last night together as a class safe, fun and memorable.

Contact Jacqueline Smith at jsmith@newmilford.com or (860) 355-7321.