The “Be the Light MN” campaign has continued to grow during the COVID-19 crisis. Princeton and Milaca are among the latest communities to join the movement.
After initially deciding to pass on the campaign, both schools will light up their empty football stadiums to show support for students who are not able to participate in their spring sport seasons. Princeton will also light up Howard “Swede” Solheim Field at Mark Park. Both schools have decided to hold ceremonies the night of April 20.
The movement has taken off since Minnesota State High School League writer, John Millea tweeted out a link showing what other states were doing to honor their athletes who seasons may have been postponed or canceled due to COVID-19.
“I started seeing tweets from the Colorado high activities association showing empty stadium baseball field and track with the lights on at night the hashtag “BetheLightCO” for Colorado and as I told people, I am not adverse to stealing a great idea so I tweeted a link to one of those and suggested it would be a cool thing and within a couple of days it was taking off like gang busters,” said Millea in his Preps Today podcast.
Word of the movement then reached Jody Stay, who fully supported the campaign and wanted Princeton to give more thought to joining. “I saw things all over my feed and the first thing I did was call [Princeton Athletic director] Darin Laabs,” Stay said. “I then talked to [Princeton Superintendent] Ben Barton about it and he loved it.”
And with a little help from Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kim Young, Princeton changed its mind and decided to participate. But it didn’t stop there. “It doesn’t need to be just football stadiums, so I got Luther Dorr involved,” stated Stay, asking for former Union-Times Editor Luther Dorr’s help to light up Mark Park’s lights.
“She asked if I was interested in turning on the lights at the baseball field, so I called Troy Kinney [former Princeton baseball coach and co-American Legion baseball coach] and within 10 seconds, he said yes,” Dorr said.
As for Milaca joining the movement, Wolves Athletic Director Brian Julson said the school was just trying to figure out the proper way to honor its students while still being safe. “We were never fully against it, but we didn’t want it to be a weekly thing, we wanted to make it one special thing,” Julson said.“We had to figure out how we could be safe and follow the social distancing guidelines while making it a good experience.”
Milaca now has a plan in place that it feels will be successful in its attempts to make it safe and enjoyable for those who attend. The school will play the national anthem followed by some other events, ending with the stadium lights being turned on for 20:20 to honor the Class of 2020. Those who attend must watch from their cars in the parking lot to maintain social distancing guidelines, Julson said.
Princeton will be doing a similar format to what Milaca has planned. Julson hopes that this is something the whole city to get behind and support. “This is a way that our community and school can rally behind our students and let them know we support them,” he said.
Stay agreed with Julson’s message. “This is community support, support for the kids and most importantly, support for the senior class.”
Princeton plans to turn on its lights beginning at 9 p.m. while Milaca will begin at 8:30 p.m.