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Best Party Ever

Hypnotists, casinos, obstacle courses, and six-figure budgets— East Bay high schoolers get ready for Grad Night.



Started decades ago to keep high schoolers safe, grad night parties in the East Bay have become extravaganzas that take more than a year to plan, sometimes costing as much as $100,000. That’s a lot of money, but parents say it’s worth every penny to keep teens from drinking and driving. Besides, our kids work hard in high school, so there’s a lot to celebrate. Here’s a look at what it takes to put on a party they’ll never forget.



They Have What?

Hypnotist permission slips: At Las Lomas High and many other schools, every parent has to give permission for his or her child to be hypnotized by a professional.

Post offices: Many schools set up an area where students can pick up letters written to them by their loved ones.

Obstacle courses: Dougherty Valley High’s grad night, to be held at a rec center in Fremont, will feature a 25-foot inflatable slide, a bungee run, and a rock-climbing wall.

An event planner: Parent associations from Carondelet and De La Salle team up with a pro during the planning process.

Nonprofit status: Some grad night committees, including Dougherty Valley High’s, are certified 501(c)3 nonprofits.

A casino: One of the most popular attractions at grad nights around the East Bay—especially with the boys—is a fully functioning casino, featuring table games like blackjack, craps, and roulette.

Competition for venues: For schools that don’t have enough room on campus, venues like City Beach in Fremont and Boomers in Livermore book up fast.


Getty Images

The Numbers

Number of personal electronic items students are allowed to bring (a cell phone).

4-12  Hours of time a typical grad night celebration lasts. Many schools don’t allow students to leave until dawn.

12  Average number of months parent volunteers spend planning a grad night.

30+ Number of years many schools have continued the tradition.

40 Number of industrial storage containers that Cal High committee chairs use to hold supplies each year.

85-99 Percentage of students who attend their school’s event.

135–180 Range of cost, in dollars, of tickets.

250+ Number of volunteers needed to run some grad night events.

75,000–90,000 Dollars in budget for most schools.

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