Members of the 1956-1972 graduating classes of Plant City Senior High School met July 27 at the Florida Strawberry Festival Expo Hall to renew old friendships and greet new faces for a combined class reunion that spanned over 17 years.
Entitled "Planters Reunite" in honor of the former school mascot, the reunion included anyone who graduated from the high school during the years when the school's campus was located at what is now Tomlin Middle School. The high school moved to it's current location in 1973.
The reunion featured a buffet followed by a ceremony with a presentation on the history of Plant City Senior High School from former Assistant Principal James "Sonny" Jones, who served at the school under Principal Glenn Evers from 1962-1967. According to Jones, the foundation for what later became Plant City Senior High School began in 1949 when the state legislature incorporated a 17-acre site near Adelson field into the city limits of Plant City.
In 1956, the school became Plant City Senior High School and remained so until 1972, after which the school relocated to it's current location.
"We in Plant City are fortunate to have most of our history recorded," Jones said.
On Saturday evening, 663 former classmates gathered to reminisce about old times and discuss the present, with some having traveled to the event from as far away as California. Volunteers from each class provided a display table with decorations and memorabilia from their graduating year.
"We have had such an overwhelming response to this," said Patsy Ballard, who helped organize the reunion. "We've been putting a lot of time into it, but I think it paid off."
Ballard explained this was the first time in school history that a combined class reunion of this size has been attempted.
Planning and organization for the reunion began in August of last year, but the biggest challenge was getting the word out to all 17 classes. Organizers obtained copies of the roll from each class, mailed out fliers and invitations, and employed social media such as Facebook.com and Classmates.com to inform former classmates of the event, relying heavily on word of mouth to reach anyone they might have missed.
"We pushed, I think we pushed really hard," Ballard said.
Nearly a year of preparation resulted in an overwhelming response to the reunion as support poured in during the final months leading up to the event.
"The reward for me is seeing everyone's faces when they haven't seen each other for a while. It makes all the hard work worth it."