Through the years, Pam Westlie has organized several well-attended reunions on behalf of Anoka High School's class of 1971.
It got her thinking about a joint reunion for all classes. "It's just crazy," she said. "I had no idea how big it would get."
Now, after months of planning, an all-class reunion for Anoka graduates has been added to the city's traditional lineup of Halloween activities this year -- fitting for the "Halloween capital of the world," said the longtime Anoka resident.
The reunion will take place this Saturday, after the city's "Light Up the Night" parade, which is in its 92nd year. Classes will congregate along Jackson Street, between Second and Third avenues in downtown Anoka, from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Grads will wear pumpkin-shaped badges indicating their class year, while each group will be staggered along the street, chronologically, from 1960 (and earlier), to 2012. Admission is free.
Westlie, a member of the reunion planning committee along with several other Anoka alumni, is gearing up for a crowd of up to 5,000 people.
Anoka has had 37,000 graduates since 1881, she said.
People are coming from all over, and they reflect multiple generations. It's especially impressive given the event's grass-roots nature. "It's all been through word-of-mouth," she said, adding that the Facebook event page has grown by leaps and bounds in recent weeks.
Other activities Saturday evening include a bonfire, fire department demonstration and drawings for prizes. Food vendors will be nearby, and T-shirts in maroon, gray and white, the school's colors, will be for sale. A heated tent, where the Anoka Lions Club will serve beer, can accommodate up to 2,000 people if the weather gets bad, Westlie said.
On Sunday from noon to 2 p.m., the three buildings that housed Anoka High School at one time or another will be open for tours. This includes the current Anoka High School campus, the present-day Anoka Middle School for the Arts, and the vintage building referred to as Sandburg, now a district outpost.
Familiar faces from the past and present, including teachers, coaches, students and others, will serve as greeters at the buildings.
During the tours, visitors will have the chance to browse through old yearbooks.
Beyond that, some classes are gathering before or after the reunion, Westlie said.
If it's anything like the reunions she's used to, the event will mean "reminiscing, lots of stories going around and lots of friendships renewed."
Promoting the city
Ross Omdahl, who graduated from Anoka in 1972 and was a longtime district employee, is another organizer.
Omdahl, who is retired, lives in the house where he grew up, alongside the school's football field. His children, Sarah and Seth, also went to Anoka.
Although he knows of small schools bringing multiple classes together, a reunion on this scale is unheard of, he said. He knows of graduates coming from the class of 1942, he said.
For him personally, "I'll be looking for hockey buddies, if they show up. It'll be fun to see some of them."
Anoka City Council member Jeff Weaver, class of 1976, is pleased with the way the event is shaping up. He hopes it will expose people to downtown improvements and inspire them to "fall back in love with what they grew up with."
"A lot of people are talking about it," he said. "You hear about it on the street. There's a lot of energy about this event."
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.