RED WING — Pizza, pop, cake. Sounds like a party.
The class of 2020 will have neither a traditional commencement nor lock-in nor that ubiquitous round of graduation parties. They will, however, have small celebrations during the pandemic delivered in a big way courtesy of Winger alumni.
Doug Noreen, owner of Liberty’s Restaurant, will give each Red Wing High School 2020 grad a 6-inch pizza, Bill Hanisch of Hanisch Bakery will give each a 7-inch round cake, and to hold that pop will be a signature purple Yeti tumbler.
“This is the reason we live here and why our town supports local,” said Lisa Daniels who owns Ace Hardware with her husband.
“Troy and I were sitting one night trying to figure out what we could do. Our nephew Kyle is a 2020 graduate,” Daniels said. They recalled that they received cups when they graduated and, since Ace Hardware sells Yeti products, a tumbler seemed the perfect 21st century solution.
They asked if fellow alumni who own local businesses wanted to help cover the $6,000-plus bill.
“We got 12 right off the bat. Nobody hesitated,” she said.
Red Wing High School will coordinate Yeti distribution. The school also provided a list of graduates, so all they need to do is give their name when calling to order the cake or pizza.
“We’ve been donating free pizzas to the graduate party lock-in since 1987,” Noreen said. “I graduated in 1989. I was so proud having my parents bring in the pizzas.”
While the timing isn’t the best financially in this carryout/delivery era — people can’t dine in restaurants under Minnesota’s and Wisconsin’s stay-at-home orders — Noreen said he wanted to continue the tradition in some fashion.
“It’s small-town pride,” he said.
More Red Wing businesses are owned by Red Wing graduates than people realize, Daniels said, explaining that she’s well aware others have donated to other efforts and in other ways.
Hanisch agreed. Millie White of Willow Tree Photography is taking portraits atop Sorin’s Bluff of seniors who don’t have one. Several others have donated to the cake project. Downtown Main Street members paid for graduation banners.
“And these are all Red Wing graduates. That’s what’s awesome. That’s what gets me going. I’m loving it,” he said.