Local News

Crowd locked out of F-V graduation ceremony

Posted June 11, 2008 1:28 p.m. EDT
Updated June 11, 2008 10:57 p.m. EDT

— It was unclear Wednesday evening why nearly 100 guests were locked out of Fuquay-Varina High School's graduation at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh.

"Everybody else has their mother and father there, OK? Where's mine?" asked graduate Rachel Yon.

Her mother, Gwen Yon, was among other relatives and friends who said they were kept out of the center's Memorial Auditorium for the ceremony, even though, they said, they had tickets to the event.

"It should not have been a problem," Greg Thomas, a spokesman for the Wake County Public School System, said. "We're looking into why this was a problem."

Each of the school's 413 graduates was allowed a maximum of five tickets, which would bring the number of guests and graduates inside the facility to nearly 2,500.

Progress Energy Center General Manager Jim Lavery, who made the decision to lock the doors, said the facility has a maximum capacity of 2,200 people and that all seats were taken.

He said he ordered the doors locked because Memorial Auditorium was in violation of the city fire code.

"We felt horrible about it, but we couldn't get them in the building," Lavery said.

Thomas said he is not sure the discrepancy between the number of tickets issued and the center's capacity was the reason some ticketholders got locked out.

"We are still trying to determine exactly what did, in fact, happen," Thomas said.

Those with tickets who were locked out said other people who did not have tickets were allowed inside.

"It's wrong. It's unjustifiably wrong," Gwen Yon said. "They need to suffer some kind of ramifications. This is a once in a lifetime thing. We've done paid whatever fees they had to pay. They got their money."

"I was going to make her a graduation scrapbook," said Carleen McMorrow, the mother of a graduate, "but now we can't get in, and I'll never get this back. I'll never get this moment back."

It was unclear if and how people without tickets got inside.

"We're sort of perplexed about that, too," Thomas said.

Lavery said there was minimum staffing by Progress Energy Center employees and that each school is responsible for its graduation ceremony, including the number of tickets distributed to students and who takes those tickets at the door.