April 9, 2020, the lights were set to be on at the Chaska High School Stadium. The Hawks boys lacrosse team opening the season against Delano.
It was supposed to mark the first of two regular season meetings between Chaska and Chanhassen in baseball and softball. The boys at Storm Stadium, the girls a mile or two south on the Hawks' varsity diamond.
Instead, teams across the state of Minnesota wait, looking for a reason of hope that the entire spring season won't be cancelled. The COVID-19 pandemic has stripped them of a month of practice and competition, with more to come.
Missing it a ton . . . keep the hope alive! pic.twitter.com/y4MF5gfIxv— Coach Coenen (@ChanStormSB) April 10, 2020
Seniors, the last chance with one another, just want to finish out high school on the field, on the court, in the classroom, on stage at a graduation ceremony.
Yet, despite all the darkness, a symbol of light shone bright April 9 from Chanhassen and Chaska high school stadium complexes. From Athletic Park in downtown Chaska. From the soccer stadium at Chaska Middle School West.
For 112 minutes, for District 112 students.
"Never fear the darkness. We're in this together. We'll always be the light."
The words of Minnesota Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer, who narrated a three-minute long Be The Light MN production from the Minnesota State High School League.
Lights have been shining bright around the state all week. Roughly 250 high schools participated on Twitter by trending #BeTheLightMN, turning on lights at stadiums across every corner of Minnesota on April 6.
It will happen every Monday until at least May 4. That's the deadline date set by Gov. Tim Walz for students to return to school this spring with hopes sports and club activities can resume in some sort of way.
If not, #BeTheLightMN will likely continue through May and perhaps until graduation.
Turning on stadium and ballpark lights may be only symbolic in nature, but it's a positive message that's surely needed in an otherwise difficult time for everyone, officials have said.
"I’ve been astonished by this," MSHSL Media Specialist John Millea told FOX 9. "I had no real idea what this would become. Certainly not that it would become as big as it has here. It’s been just so great to see all this positivity. Some towns, they’re bringing out all the first responder vehicles, they’re ringing the field and turning on the lights and putting on a show."
Turning on the lights is not just a Minnesota thing. It's happening all over the country.
According to Millea, it started March 24 at Dumas High School, which is in a small town 45 minutes outside of Amarillo on the Texas panhandle.
Wayzata High School got a head start, turning on the lights at the football stadium on Saturday, April 4 at 8:20 p.m., or 20:20 military time, for 20 minutes in honor of the Class of 2020.
"We plan to do it every night until students are back in school or the school year ends," Jeffrey DeMars, Video Communications Specialist for Wayzata Public Schools, said.
"We really wanted to do something special for the Class of 2020. They are missing out on the experience of their last year of high school, so we thought this could be a special way for us to let them know we are thinking of them," said Wayzata High School Principal Scott Gengler. "The post on Facebook really resonated with a lot of people and is by far the most popular post we've ever had, so we're glad so many others felt the same way as us."
Holy Family Catholic High School in Victoria lit up April 2 as coach and teacher Ian Parzyck flipped the switch on the football stadium lights as well as the Sacred Heart Chapel and the Slattery Athletic and Convocation Center.
Mound Westonka High School plans to light up Haddorff Field every Friday at 8 p.m. for 20 minutes and 20 seconds through at least the end of May to honor students, staff, community members and especially the 2020 senior class, an email from the school district said.
Each week a different sports team or activity will be recognized on the district website and social media, and the district is encouraging people to join in by sharing photos and messages to the team using the hashtag #BeTheLightMN and #MWHSPride.
It started on April 9 (Thursday instead of Friday due to the holiday), honoring DECA and Speech, two winter activities cut short due to the pandemic. April 17 will honor baseball and softball, April 24 is for boys and girls golf, May 1 will pay tribute to boys tennis, May 8 is for trap shooting, May 15 will honor boys and girls lacrosse and May 22 will recognize track and field.
Share your Chaska and Chanhassen photos on Twitter with #ECCSStrong, and on the Herald and Villager Facebook pages.