Texoma businesses look forward to graduations as post 2020 economic boost

Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat
The Austin College 2019 commencement address came from Dr. Ruth Whiteside, a 1964 graduate of the school.

While Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" march might be the most recognizable sound of graduations, the less grand sound of cha-ching also ranks high during the celebratory season.

This year, Grayson County's four biggest graduations did or will take place in person drawing thousands of people to the area even amid limited seating due to continued COVID-19 restrictions.

"I understand that Austin College graduations fill up hotels," Denison Main Street Director Donna Dow said.

Austin College anticipates welcoming 2,100 people to its campus this weekend for an in-person ceremony for graduates of both 2020 and 2021, there will likely be a lot of hotel rooms booked for that weekend.

Austin College President Steven O’Day sent some 300 students out into the real world with their degrees in May 2018.

AC Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Lynn Womble said that is about half the number of people the college would normally anticipate hosting on a graduation weekend. Each student was given only four in-person tickets to allow for social distancing due to continued COVID-19 concerns.

"Still many will be in hotels and restaurants," she said.

Local restaurants enjoyed the support they received by people ordering takeout during the pandemic, "there's nothing like having family gather around the table and enjoy their time together safely," Sherman Tourism and Main Street Manager Sarah McRae said. 

More than 400 students received diplomas or certificates when Grayson College kicked off the area's graduation season with three ceremonies on May 7.Some of them are shown in this file photo.  (Rhea Bermel/ Grayson College).

"We are very excited to have people traveling again and able to come support these major life events happening, whether it's a wedding or graduation," she continued.

A return to a more normal number of people using local hotels and eating at local eateries helps to support the things provided by the taxes on such activities like Hot Summer Nights and Lights on the Lake, McRae said.

Grayson College kicked off graduation season in the county with multiple ceremonies that saw 303 students receive associates degrees and 24 Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees along with 132 certificate recipients.

SHS 2020 graduation ceremonies included social distancing and safety guidelines that lead to a very different event from previous years.

Graduation fun continues Saturday as Austin College welcomes students from both 2020 and 2021 to make that walk in Clyde Hall Graduation Court.

Then the area's two biggest high schools will honor its graduates with ceremonies the next two weekends. Denison's ceremony will take place Saturday at Munson Stadium, and Sherman's will follow suit May 28 at Bearcat Stadium.

Denison High School held its graduation ceremony Saturday at Munson Stadium in Denison.