Trio of BVHS senior families bring the party to neighborhood park

Anna Sorenson, Journal intern

Emily Hensley delivers her address to the graduates at Sunday’s commencement exercises. Jill Meier/BV Journal

Brandon Valley High’s Class of 2020 gathered Friday for rehearsal, fun and games, a BBQ, a final walk-through their school and a hypnotist. At commencement, the graduates were spaced out in rows which took up the entire basketball court. Family and friends – limited to four tickets per graduate – were also socially-distanced spaced on the bleachers. For more photos from Friday’s gathering and Sunday’s commencement exercises, visit the photo galleries at

Three Brandon Valley families celebrated their seniors with a joint graduation party at Tallgrass Park on Saturday. The Tripps, Barkers and Kjenstads rented the park’s picnic shelter and brought in a pizza food truck for the occasion, setting up tents to keep guests cool on one of summer’s most hot and humid days.

The families were originally planning to have their parties at the Brandon Fire Department. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the fire department established a policy canceling rentals to outside families until October. Nicole Tripp, Ranee Barker and Jessica Kjenstad — the moms of seniors Cade Tripp, Ryan Barker and Ethan Kjenstad — made the decision to bring the party outside to their neighborhood park, Tallgrass Park.

Jessica said working with the city to get the party set up went smoothly. “We had to get a peddler’s license for the food truck, even though they aren’t selling anything. The city was great to work with as far as renting the shelter.”

The moms said they seemed to be looking forward to the party more than the party’s guest of honors, their graduating sons.

“They’re boys,” Nicole joked. “As parents we’re a little more excited than the kids.”

According to the moms, the boys adjusted well to their atypical senior year. Nicole said her son Cade told her, “If this is the worst problem I ever face in my life, I’m doing pretty good.” 

Ranee said she’s sad for her son, Ryan. “He doesn’t know what we’ve experienced, so he doesn’t know anything different.”

This is the first year the three families have had a high school graduate. Jessica and Nicole have another graduation coming up in two years, and they hope “things go more smoothly by then.”

As a parent, Jessica said she’s gotten used to “going with the flow,” but has kept a positive attitude leading up to her son’s delayed graduation day. “It’s their own unique event,” she said. 

“It’s definitely one for the books,” Nicole added.


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