Published on June 2nd, 2017 | by Jordan Steigelfest


The 20 year old Viking boat seeks to see last voyage at Samo’s Grad Nite

As graduation approaches, parents from across the Samo community put together a send off party to celebrate the culmination of the senior class, known more commonly as Grad Nite. This annual event is intended to be a drug and alcohol-free graduation party that keeps Samo students safe, sober and alive on what is considered to be one of the most dangerous nights of high school students’ lives.

The event takes place on the night of graduation, starting at nine p.m. and going until six a.m. the following morning. Something that is commonly seen by all students across campus is a large wooden boat next to the tennis courts. The boat serves as a grand entrance to the event and after 18 years of it’s presence, the parents that uphold the age old tradition are retiring, which begs the question: now what?

The original Grad Nite tradition involved the senior class spending the night at Disneyland. As the years went on, the popularity of this tradition waned. At a certain point, the number of seniors who attended Grad Nite had dwindled to only 60.

As parent and boat builder Chris Emhardt put it, “Other than being there late, that night was not especially memorable.”

Starting in 1991, Samo has hosted Grad Nite on campus and it has remained that way since. At some point between 1992 to 1993, the boat we are familiar seeing towards the end of the school year was purchased from another high school. Between 1999-2000, the boat was rebuilt under the direction of Bill Dearn (’63), the longest running volunteer to work on the boat, the designer of the boat Woody Coleman and many other parent volunteers including Emhardt. Soon after, the S.S. Viking was ready to set sail for decades to come.

The construction of the boat requires 20 volunteers, many of which are parents and alumni. Each year, volunteers construct the boat over the course of three weekends, working up to 16 hours each weekend. On the day of graduation, the volunteers usually spend an additional eight hours on final touches.

“It’s been a labor of love,” Emhardt said.

For the tradition to continue, the work must be passed on to a new generation.  However, due to a lack of new long term volunteers, the future of the S.S. Viking has come to an end.

“Two years ago we told the community that the majority of the long term boat builders were going to be ‘retiring’ from the boat. In the last 2 years no one has stepped up to take the helm. So this year is Woody’s, Chuck’s and my last year,” Emhardt said.

Next year, Grad Nite will be hosted in the South Gym.

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