Laura Wiens, The Triplicate

Mary Peacock event; Grad Night party; fireworks cleanup

It can be tough moving on from grade school to middle school. The 51 "graduating" fifth-graders at Mary Peacock Elementary School and their parents made this rite of passage a little easier by going Hollywood with their "Fifth Grade Finale."

The stage of the school's multipurpose room was decorated with gold and black balloons Friday afternoon. With boys attired in "tuxedo" T-shirts and girls in "bling" T-shirts, the fifth-graders handed out "Oscars" to the teachers and other school staff members who had helped them along the way. That night, they did the same for their parents, then had a party with music and food.

During the daytime event, the fifth-graders' younger peers were in the audience, no doubt looking ahead to when they'll be moving on to the great unknown of middle school.

"It's a nervous time for them," Starr Blackburn said of the fifth-graders. "They're not quite teenagers, but they're not primary kids either."

She admitted feeling "melancholy" about her own son finishing up at Mary Peacock. So many of these kids have been together since kindergarten, said Starr, one of the organizers of the event that she described as "a nice time of reflection on how they've matured and who helped them on that journey."

In addition to awarding hand-painted "Oscars," the students read thank-you letters.

"Everything's kind of Hollywood. It's a fun end-of-the-year celebration," said Starr, herself a teacher at Castle Rock Charter School.

By the way, fifth-graders finishing up at Mary Peacock and elsewhere in the Del Norte Unified School District represent the Class of 2020, so they should have a clear vision of the future.

Safe and Sober donations

As for the class of 2013, its members graduate this week, and organizers are rushing to prepare for the Safe and Sober party that will start Friday night and conclude Saturday morning for graduating seniors.

"The community has stepped up, and it's coming together," said Michelle Moore, one of three organizers, along with Eva Lopez and Debbie Bruschi.

Organizers have been collecting donations of food, prizes and cash for the party that offers graduating seniors a way to celebrate that ensures they'll live to experience what comes after high school.

Michelle cited a few recent donations:

andbull; Grocery Outlet said "bring a truck, we've got soda."

andbull; Pelican Bay State Prison inmates donated $1,500.

andbull; "We got an anonymous donor for a DJ. When we got that our eyes teared up. It was amazing."

All graduating seniors in Del Norte County are invited to the event that begins at 8 p.m. Friday, shortly after the DNHS commencement ceremony, and continues until 4 a.m. Saturday.

This is always a big event, and this year's plans include games, a mechanical bull, a bungee wall, a DJ, karaoke, videos and a raffle for a car. Every senior who attends will get a prize, said Michelle, who added, "we've got a great community."

For more information or to make a last-minute donation, call Michelle at 954-0520.

Post-fireworks cleanup

A lot of tradition surrounds Crescent City's Fourth of July festivities, but one of the most important ones is in jeopardy.

Every year in recent memory on July 5, the local chapter of the Surfriders Club has led a cleanup of South Beach after the previous night's revelry.

But the club's longtime leader, Michael Sweeney, and his wife Gabriele, have just moved to Southern California, where Michael works on the set of the TV show, "Two and a Half Men."

So far, no one has stepped into the void to lead the local Surfriders, which leaves the holiday cleanup effort in doubt as well.

"I'm trying to help find another group to take this on," said Lorie Poole of Recology Del Norte. "We hope (the cleanup) can continue even though the chapter may close. If our beaches aren't clean, we won't have the people come."

And let's face it, on the Fifth of July, the beaches aren't so clean.

"There's iddy-biddy pieces everywhere that still have all the chemicals" from spent fireworks, said Lorie. "Birds will eat that, they like the red and bright shiny colors."

And it's not just fireworks residue awaiting the cleanup party, which has varied in size over the years from "five or six people" to "25 to 50 people," Michael said in a telephone interview as he headed off to his new home in Ventura.

"Last year they hauled away 500 pounds of trash," Michael said. "It's incredible what they leave behind."

The Surfriders Club even gave out prizes to those who collected the most trash during the cleanup, which usually begins at 11 a.m.

It'd be a shame to lose the Surfriders, who've also been giving out two $500 scholarships each year to Castle Rock students who plan to enter the field of marine biology or another environmental field -- "anything sustainable," Michael said.

But even more urgent is the need to find a new Fifth of July cleanup coordinator.

So far, "people are signing up to help clean, but not stepping up to do the management of it," Lorie said.

If you're willing to help, or even lead the effort, call Lorie, 464-4181.