Painted by 1991 alum and artist Scott Moshier, Sumner Memorial High School’s tiger mascot emblazons the wall of the Clint Ritchie Gymnasium, where “The Last Dance” take place this Saturday, May 14, from 6 to 10 p.m. WDEA PHOTO COURTESY CHRIS POPPER

The last dance: Sumner alums to show “Tiger pride” final time before gym demo

SULLIVAN — As construction on the Charles M. Sumner Learning Campus progresses and the demolition of the current Sumner Memorial High School looms, school staff and alumni are doing everything they can to properly say goodbye to the building that has been so beloved by and played such a big part in the lives of the greater Schoodic Peninsula community since it was established in 1952.

On May 14 from 6 to 10 p.m., Sumner alumni are invited to “The Last Dance” that will ever be held in the school’s Clint Ritchie Gymnasium.

Guests will get to reconnect and relive the awkward magic of their high school dance experiences, all while enjoying live music by local band Whiskey Bent and dinner provided by the junior class, served at 5 p.m.

Tickets for the event are available by calling the Sumner office. As the month of April came to a close, Sumner Principal JT Green said about 100 people had signed up, with calls and emails coming in every day leading up to the big night.

Tickets are $30 per person and dinner is $10 per person.

“We are honored to welcome back Sumner alumni as part of The Last Dance. Even the band, Whiskey Bent, itself contains two Sumner graduates,” Green told The American. “I am looking forward to seeing so many former Tigers reunite within the building where so many wonderful memories and friendships were made.”

For many Sumner alumni, saying goodbye to the building, especially the Clint Ritchie Gymnasium — adorned with its blue and white banners and painted tiger mascot — is bittersweet.

“What’s really sad is that there’s so many memories in that gym,” said Klair Moshier, a 1991 Sumner graduate who owns You Name It in Gouldsboro with her husband, Scott, a fellow Sumner Tiger.

The couple are high school sweethearts and were crowned Prom King and Queen during their junior year at the high school.

Clint Ritchie (center) with his wife Eleanor earlier this year was presented the original plaque when the Sumner gymnasium was named in his honor on Nov. 27, 1996. Ritchie served as custodian for 20 years and greatly contributed to the school. SUMNER MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL PHOTO

Dances were held at least once a month in the school’s cafeteria, Klair recalled. But prom was held in the gym to set it apart and make it more special.

“We would have live bands for those,” Klair remembered. “We had bands send us tapes to watch to pick out which band we wanted.”

For traditional dances, DJs were hired to spin tracks. Often, that DJ would be the late Maine radio legend Chuck Foster.

“It was very cool to have Chuck Foster come to your school,” Klair said.

He would set up his equipment, including a screen for playing music videos, “which was very new back then,” she added.

The building’s history and Klair’s family history are somewhat steeped together.

“My mother graduated from there back in ’67,” she said. “Both of my kids went there … and played on that gym floor or cheered on that gym floor.”

And while saying goodbye to the building will be difficult, Klair also is looking forward to the new, 6-12th-grade facility that will take its place.

“I look forward to the new facility for the kids being able to have more opportunities,” Klair said. “They’re gonna have the latest and the greatest of the new technology. I think that’s great.”

The $44 million facility boasts views of Cadillac Mountain, state-of-the-art wood and mechanic shops, an expansive outdoor learning space and much more.

Klair also thinks the increased population of the school, which will rise to about 420 students from combining middle and high school grades together, will give it an academic and athletic boost.

When Klair attended Sumner, it was classified by the state as a Class B school due to its higher enrollment, which was largely influenced by the nearby U.S. Navy base in Winter Harbor, she said.

That base has since shut down and along with other factors, enrollment in the Downeast school, which is now part of Regional School Unit 24, has declined.

But having more kids in the facility again could mean more opportunities, Klair said.

Klair may be traveling the day of The Last Dance, but if she can make it, she will be there.

“I’m definitely going to try,” she said.

Principal Green echoed the sentiment that saying goodbye to the landmark building and gymnasium will be tough, but a bright future is ahead for the school’s community.

“Moving to our new school in August will be difficult, but we are excited about all of the amazing memories and friendships that will be made within those walls in the coming years,” he said.

To attend Sumner alumni’s “The Last Dance” and/or the spaghetti supper, call 422-3510 or email [email protected]. Tickets also will be for sale at the door.


Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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