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Thu., Oct. 8
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Alums coming from far and wide for Stonerstock


POTSDAM - With well over 700 people expected to attend Stonerstock events this weekend, it’s inevitable that some of them traveled from afar.

Vlasta K. Pinkston was among the contingent of Stoners traveling to Potsdam from foreign lands.

Ms. Pinkston, who graduated from Potsdam High School in 1972, now lives just outside of London.

“My visit here was for multiple reasons,” she said, adding that her mom and dad still live in Potsdam and with her birthday coming up, the timing for Stonerstock couldn’t have been any better.

“Every year we get together anyway,” she said, referring to a trio of classmates that also includes Dianne Horton and Sue Aldous. “And we usually end up in Potsdam. This was just a big extension of that.”

When asked what is so special about Potsdam that would lead this many to come back for a reunion, she replied, “It was a brilliant high school. We were Stoners and once you’re a Stoner, you’re always a Stoner.”

Standing in a room filled with laughter and hugs Friday afternoon at the Potsdam Museum, Ms. Pinkston said, “Our classes were really close.”

She continued, “This is such a small town and a lot of people left after graduation, but there’s something as you get older in age that drags you back to your roots, and I think that’s what this is all about.”

John P. McBurnie graduated from Potsdam in 1971 and traveled to Stonerstock from Avon, Colo.

“I kind of helped out quite a bit with it,” he said. “I haven’t been back in a lot of years, so it was time to come back.”

Among Mr. McBurnie’s contributions to the event was a display of 1960s memorabilia that he brought along to display at the museum during Stonerstock.

Mr. McBurnie said he arrived in town yesterday barbecuing with some friends in South Colton, adding a fourth day to the festivities for him.

“Most of the people there, we all grew up on the same street,” he said. “It’s great to see people. It’s incredible that this thing has been pulled off.”

With the official Mega Reunion itself will be held tonight at SUNY Potsdam with a group of 575 Stoners dating as far back as 1937, Mr. McBurnie said the event could have been even bigger.

“It’s too bad we didn’t have a bigger facility or there would have been even more people,” he said, adding there are also a lot of people attending events this weekend that don’t have tickets to Saturday evening’s dinner.

Wearing a tie-dyed shirt and a hat fit for the Mad Hatter, Mr. McBurnie said, “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”

That being said, he almost did.

Initially when he asked for the time off from work, Mr. McBurnie said he was told by his employer that he couldn’t use his vacation time now because there was someone else who had already requested it off.

When asked if he would have quit his job to attend, he replied, only half jokingly, “Pretty much.”

Mr. McBurnie said he was able to get the time off without quitting his job. He said he’ll be flying back home on Aug. 18.

Students though aren’t the only ones attending Stonerstock.

Constance McElwain joined the faculty of Potsdam Central School in 1958, teaching first grade at Lawrence Avenue Elementary.

“It was new that year. It was the first year for the school,” she said, recalling the building was surrounded by “a sea of mud.”

Ms. McElwain also recalled the superintendent at that time was the late A.A. Kingston, the man for whom Potsdam Middle School is named.

Ms. McElwain said she didn’t travel far to attend the event’s welcoming reception as she lives in Potsdam.

“I thought I would come down and see if there were any familiar faces,” she said. “I saw one girl I knew.”

When asked if she was looking for former students, she replied people today would look far different than they did back when she was teaching them how to read and write.

“I don’t think I would even know them,” she said, adding she gets recognized by former students from time to time.

“Just the other day I had a guy come up to me and ask if I was his teacher. I told him I recognized his face and asked him what his name was,” she said. “He told me, and I told him he was.”

Today’s events will start at 9 a.m. with a 5K walk/run starting on Beal Street, behind Potsdam Laundry. The course for this event will be the same as for the Tour de Potsdam. The cost to participate is $5, with proceeds benefiting the Potsdam Key Club.

The Elks Club will host a chicken barbecue at 11:30 a.m. The cost of this meal is not included in the price of the reunion ticket.

At 1 p.m. all alums in town are invited to the school for a Mega Reunion group photo on the football bleachers behind the high school.

From 1 to 5 p.m. a musical tribute to Hank Williams Jr., Hankfest, is being held at Ives Park. This event will also feature a craft fair.

The Mega Reunion itself will then take place from 5 p.m. to midnight with cocktails served from 5 to 6 p.m. and a buffet dinner from 6 to 8:15 p.m. There will be an opportunity for organizers and participants to share stories and recognize various attendees 8:15 to 8:45 p.m.

Double Axel will perform from 9 p.m. to midnight.

The event will conclude on Sunday with a farewell brunch at the high school to be followed by tours of the school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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