By Christy Porter, Managing Editor
The long time tradition of the Licking Alumni Banquet will not be held in May 2022 due to health concerns of COVID. The banquet was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 also due to COVID concerns. With this year’s announcement, organizers since 1996, Linda Friend and Sharon Stephens, also shared that any plans for continuing the banquet in the future have been discontinued.
There are multiple reasons for this decision, including, but not limited to the pandemic. Among other reasons are the lack of an appropriate and affordable venue with easy kitchen access, catering and cleanup costs that continue to escalate, and a decrease in attendees over time.
While funds are available, organizers hope to continue providing two $500 scholarships per academic year, as has been done since 2007. Twenty-seven scholarships have been given to date. Specific criteria must be met to receive the scholarships that are then disbursed upon completion of a student’s first semester at a higher institution of learning. A bucket was passed at the banquet each year with all contributions going towards the scholarship fund, and other donations were given.
The alumni banquet was initiated in 1916 and was a dress event with entertainment, food and fun; some years there were upwards of 400 attendees, with members from decade graduating classes including the current seniors invited. An alumni committee of four also presented the Miss Merry Christmas Pageant, whose candidates were sponsored by different organizations with 10 to 20 girls participating. They also hosted the Mr. and Mrs. Senior contest from the current graduating class. Over time the pageant was discontinued and the contest management shifted to the school. Classmates continued to help with decorating and other assorted necessary tasks for the banquet.
The banquet, which was held on Mother’s Day weekend, was oftentimes a community event, with alumni traveling to Licking, visiting with family and friends while here, and contributing to the local economy.
“With the rising costs and other hindrances of continuing the banquet, we feel that it’s no longer feasible to continue the event,” said Friend.
If you have questions or comments you may reach Linda Friend at 417-331-9635 or Sharon Stephens at 417-880-7004.