It’s no secret that Puyallup and Rogers high schools have had a long-standing rivalry — especially in the world of sports.
But the Class of 1996 is bringing the two rival schools together in a first-ever PHS and RHS joint class reunion this weekend.
“We heard about other places in the state where classes would join together,” said Kendra Aguilar, who works on the RHS class reunion committee. “We have yet to find one that’s two rival high schools.”
Mandy Johnson, member of the PHS reunion committee, first brought up the idea as a joke to fellow member Gale Mickelson.
“I would have said no way,” said Johnson when she thought about what her high-school self would have to say about the rival union.
Then she found out through Facebook that the RHS committee was having trouble finding a venue, and her committee stepped forward.
“We cautiously approached our classmates first and they were all on board,” Johnson said. “We decided to make a joke of the rivalry and play that up.”
We heard about other places in the state where classes would join together. We have yet to find one that’s two rival high schools.
Kendra Aguilar, Rogers High School Class of ‘96
Johnson had already reserved the Pioneer Park Pavilion downtown for the event, and was a bit worried that she’d booked a venue that was too big. With RHS joining them, they’d have enough space. Johnson got in touch with Aguilar and pitched the idea.
“It seemed natural,” said Aguilar, 38. “At first they were teasing us (and saying), ‘Get it together!’ And we said that we have everything else (ready). So let’s do it together.”
When the committees finally broke the news to classmates, nearly all of the feedback was positive.
“The initial reaction was awesome,” Aguilar said. “We said, ‘Is it weird to invite Puyallup? Is that a totally crazy idea?’ Some were like ‘Heck no! What were you thinking?’ But a lot of people have come around.”
The two classes teased each other about the rivalry, but many already had friends from the other high school.
“We all grew up together,” Mickelson said. “We were raised together and share Puyallup together. I thought (the idea) was very classy.”
Now some alumni are calling it “the biggest party in Puyallup in 20 years” in anticipation for the reunion, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 24).
As more and more locals heard about the reunion, ticket sales increased rapidly.
It’s normal for class reunions to sell from 50 to 75 tickets, Michelson said. The joint reunion has sold almost 200 so far, with about 60 percent RHS graduates and 40 percent PHS graduates. The RHS Class of ‘96 had around 500 students in its graduating class, and PHS about 450. Only around 20 to 30 percent of those graduates will show, Johnson said — but she’s happy with that number.
Everyone is starting to hear about this and is thinking about doing exactly what we’re doing. We’re calling it the biggest party in Puyallup.
Mandy Johnson, Puyallup High School Class of ‘96
Tickets were priced at $40 and have recently been raised to $65 as the event inches closer. Tickets will also be sold at the door the night of the event.
Johnson and Aguilar want to keep some activities of the night secret, but they say there will be a DJ, dinner, dance floor and photo booth at the event. The space will be divided in half with each’s school colors, but alumni will be able to mingle wherever they please.
Fisher will bring 250 scones from the Washington State Fair, and flowers are coming from the farmer’s market.
“We’re excited that we’re going local,” Johnson said.
Johnson, who currently lives in Graham with her two children, is excited to start what might become a new tradition for other graduating classes.
“Everyone is starting to hear about this and is thinking about doing exactly what we’re doing,” Johnson said. “We’re calling it the biggest party in Puyallup.”
Kristy Thompson is part of the Class of ‘96 and is coming to the reunion as a PHS supporter, but her husband is part of the RHS Class of ‘94.
“We were pleasantly surprised (when we found out), and thought it sounded like a fun idea,” said Thompson, 38. “It’s an innovative approach to a longstanding tradition. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of people.”