Lewis, Tippetts honored for service to Grad Night Out

Outstanding Citizens

Grad Night Out committee leaders Georgette Lewis and Colleen Tippetts were named Citizens of the Year at the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet, held on Friday, April 11. Patti Carpenter photo
Grad Night Out committee leaders Georgette Lewis and Colleen Tippetts were named Citizens of the Year at the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce annual awards banquet, held on Friday, April 11.
Patti Carpenter photo

Thirty years of dedicated service to the graduating seniors at Lovell and Rocky Mountain high schools has led to two Lovell women being honored by the Lovell Area Chamber of Commerce Friday night as the 2014 Outstanding Citizens for Lovell and North Big Horn County.

Georgette Lewis and Colleen Tippetts, who have worked tirelessly over the years to set up and operate the annual Grad Night Out post-graduation parties, were honored at Friday night’s Spring Dinner and Awards Banquet at the Lovell Community Center.

Lovell Chief of Police Nick Lewis explained the history of the Grad Night Out events and the dedication of wife Georgette and Colleen Tippetts in a letter that was read at Friday’s banquet.

Nick Lewis was the originator of the event and has been helping behind the scenes, while Georgette and Colleen have done the yearly hands-on preparation and staffed the all-night parties with the help of many volunteers.

“The idea of Grad Night Out, the non-alcoholic parties for the graduating seniors for Rocky and Lovell, came from being a deputy sheriff and running around all night trying to keep the seniors from drinking and injuring or killing themselves in a vehicle crash,” Lewis said.

“I realized that if we were going to be out all night with them anyway, why not do something proactive instead of reactive. So in the summer of 1984 a planning meeting was scheduled and held in the evening at the Lovell Annex.  Only one person showed up at that meeting that night and it was me.

“However, I just didn’t think we should give up, so a few of us got together and planned the first Grad Night Out events that year. We asked for donations from our citizens and businesses and the response was overwhelming. Everyone realized that it was just a matter of time before we had a death or serious injury and the donations and offers of help came in nonstop.”

Georgette and Colleen started planning the actual events, while others built “backers” and lined up materials, Lewis said.

“We had the first one in the lobby of the Lovell High Schools gym, tore this down, and moved the whole show to Byron and put it back up for the Rocky Grad Night out in the lobby of the Rocky Mtn. gym,” Lewis said. “We did this for several years and then floated the idea of having these parties at the National Guard Armory in Lovell and they were held there for many years.

After various issues no longer allowed the armory to be used, the party was moved to the community center, which has been ideal, Lewis said, with plenty of room and ample parking.

“Now let me tell you what Georgette and Colleen have done for the past approximately 30 years,” Lewis said. “Even though the Grad Night Out events are only two nights out of the year, these ladies think, eat and dream the Grad Night Out events 365 days of the year. Throughout the year they look for games to play, trying to make sure each year they have different games so the events won’t be boring to the seniors and they won’t show up.

“There is a yearlong search for a theme such as survivor, casino night and many, many different themes depending on what is ‘hot’ with the seniors that year. Remember, folks, it is all well and good to have these events, but if the seniors think they are lame and not worth going to, what good are they? Fortunately, with Georgette and Colleen organizing and running these events, we have consistently had 95 percent of all seniors attend.”

Lewis said work on the following year’s event starts even as the volunteers are putting away the games and cleaning up the current year’s party.

“I truly believe that they never stop thinking about how to make next year’s events even better and more attractive to the seniors so they will come,” he said of the event that runs from about 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and includes breakfast at the end.

“We have had every type of game and entertainment you can imagine from a fishing pond, mechanical bull, live bands, DJs and karaoke to frozen T-shirts, unwrapping toilet paper, eating unusual foods, bowling, dunking booths and many, many others,” Lewis noted. “We also have had numerous types of food and drinks including pizza, breakfast burritos, nachos, cotton candy, snow cones, hamburgers, sub sandwiches and everything under the sun, all 100 percent health, I’m sure.

“There have been hundreds of people in the community that have offered help and financial support and because of your generosity we have never had a senior injured or a death occur on graduation night. We also have never had a single MIP citation issued on graduation night because of what you have all done for our seniors.”

“The Grad Night Out events have been a labor of love for Georgette and Colleen, and they have cultivated many lasting relationships with many of the seniors, parents and volunteers,” Lewis said. “There is never a year that goes by where several seniors don’t approach Georgette and Colleen to try and find out what is going to happen at their graduation event. Knowing that the seniors are eagerly anticipating attending is the ultimate reward for these ladies and one well deserved. They have also had many parents let them know how they appreciate Georgette and Colleen’s hard work so they can rest on graduation night knowing that their child is safe and they won’t be getting the phone call that every parent dreads when the child is away from home.”

After 30 years, with one brief break during that span, Georgette and Colleen will step down as the main organizers of the Grad Night Out parties after this year’s commencement ceremonies in late May.

“At some point we all know when it’s time to let go of the reins and as hard as it is this will be the last year that Georgette and Colleen will be organizing the Grad Night Out events,” Lewis said. “I believe that we have several people that have been helping that are ready and willing to carry on this tradition, and we all wish them well.

Lewis said Georgette and Colleen would like to thank the many businesses and individuals that have donated the money for these events, adding, “If it weren’t for you, these events would have died years ago.”

He also thanked others for their help including Denise Harrison, Cher Bischoff, the Lovell Chronicle staff and the schools themselves.

“These ladies make the days leading up to the events and the events themselves enjoyable for all,” Lewis said. “It’s like a family reunion and party all rolled into one. Most of the volunteers come each year with a few new faces in the mix.

“Georgette and Colleen do a great job and we all sincerely appreciate your 30 years of service to our children and the entire community. The award you are receiving tonight is very well deserved.”

Presenter David Peck noted some of the unusual foods and activities the Grad Night Out committee has come up with over the years from Spam cans repackaged as dog food cans to blended foods, perhaps pigs feet, sardines and M&Ms blended, for instance.

Georgette and Colleen thanked the Chamber for the award and said they truly are always thinking of the next great idea for Grad Night Out. Colleen thanked Nick Lewis for starting the event, saying it never would have happened without him.

The duo thanked the community for the tremendous support and asked anyone who has ever attended a Grad Night Out as a student or helped at a party to stand up. At least half of the crowd, 50 people or more, stood up.

“That’s why it’s been so successful, because of everybody’s help,” Georgette said.

by David Peck