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Senior parties: One last hurrah

Before leaving high school for the last time, East Ridge, Park and Woodbury high school graduates will celebrate all night long.

It takes the hard work of many parent volunteers to raise money and organize all-night parties at the three schools to give their students a good time and make sure they stay safe. Schools do not pay for the parties.

At Park, grads will enter "Tropical Heaven in 2011," an idea of Tim Lindblom, chair of the all-night party, that won applause from the organizing committee. A beach awaits the former students with a wall poster ocean background when they enter at 10:30 p.m.

Bedecked with leis, flowers and sunglasses, they will get a chance to have their pictures taken with friends.

Compliments of Walgreens, students presenting all-night coupons will get a compact disc of pictures of their classmates.

At East Ridge, grads will enter on a red carpet to "Reach for the Stars," just like a Hollywood premier, according to Jenny Hoeffel, East Ridge's all-night party chair.

Parents with cameras will take candid pictures of classmates during the party and post them online for downloading.

Under a long-standing tradition, Woodbury grads won't know the theme of their party until they enter the school, said Kris Quickfel, parent volunteer responsible for tickets.

Tickets are $65 at Park, $75 at Woodbury and $80 at East Ridge, but there are scholarships at all three schools for those who can't afford to attend. The cost of an East Ridge ticket is higher because the school is celebrating its first graduating class and start-up funds were needed. The cost of building blackjack tables was $1,200, for example, Hoeffel said.

All three schools will feature hypnotists, which is a popular annual program with the grads.

Also popular with party-goers is Comedy Sportz, an improvisation group, that will be featured at East Ridge and Woodbury.

There will also be gambling at all three schools including Texas Hold 'em, a popular poker game, blackjack and other casino games, but they will not use real money. Winnings can be traded for raffle tickets for a slew of prizes.

"There's a little bit for everybody," Lindblom said.

In addition to the gambling games at East Ridge, Hoeffel is adding a twist of her own with a version of "Minute to Win It," a popular television show.

At Park and East Ridge, the Army National Guard will have a climbing wall and obstacle course and prizes for those who participate.

There will be beauty salons for students who want a hair makeover or get their nails done.

At East Ridge, grads will be able to get a special airbrush tattoo honoring Ann Haering, a student who died of leukemia.

It wouldn't be a party without food and there will be plenty of it all night long.

East Ridge and Woodbury parents pooled their efforts to get food for the new alumni. Food at all three schools include pizza, subs, chips and salsa, pasta, and ice cream.

Lindblom said that even though the economy is down, all of the businesses that donated in past years stepped up to contribute again this year.

"Hats off to the local vendors in south Washington County," he said.

Before the exhausted young adults prepare to leave at 5 a.m., breakfast will be served at all three schools.

"It's gratifying to see the kids having the time of their lives," Lindblom said.