It’s been twenty-nine years since Matt McGill and John (Jack) Murphy have coordinated the efforts for the senior class of Marcellus High School’s annual “Crystal Ball Cruise.” This is the night that car enthusiasts get together to assist in keeping graduating seniors and their dates safe and sound. According to the insurance industry, Senior Ball night is one of the most dangerous nights of the year for high school students due to the amount of drinking and driving. In this twenty-nine year time frame there has not been an accident during this event which puts many parents at ease on one of the most active nights of the year for high school students.
A typical evening for the Crystal Ball Cruise drivers begins around 4:00 in the afternoon. These drivers meet at the Marcellus High School to park and show off their cars, mingle with other drivers, as well wait for their students to show up. One is often able to see Fords from the ‘40s, Chevy’s from the ‘50s, Mopars from the ‘60s up to the latest and greatest modern day automobiles. In order to keep the seniors safe, typically seventy-five or more classic, vintage, sports cars and trucks get together to escort the seniors throughout the night to their final destination. Owners of these vehicles volunteer their time to keep these seniors safe on this very festive evening. Many of the drivers have been participating for well over ten years and come back each year for the fun and excitement of this special night. Each participating senior is assigned a car while the drivers are each given the names of their student passengers. Seniors and their parents are often greeted by drivers and their passenger as the match up of kids and cars take place. It is then the drivers accept the responsibility to keep the seniors safe throughout the evening and into the night.
At approximately 6:00 pm vehicles leave the Marcellus High School parking lot with smiling seniors that are excited about a very epic night ahead of them. This too is an exciting evening for the village of Marcellus, as many residents set up chairs and umbrellas, wave flags, and blast air horns when lining both sides of the streets as if the annual Memorial Day parade was about to take place. Local law enforcement lead the parade of cars and block off all major intersections in order to keep this senior class caravan of vehicles together. As the seniors leave the high school, they are escorted to the main village intersection then make a lap around the Village Park to cruise through the village one last time on their way to the Senior Ball. Drivers drop off their kids at the Senior Ball location and take off to a driver’s party which includes food, drink (non-alcoholic), desserts and games to play, so they can earn Marcellus money for the kids to be used later that night. Once the Senior Ball has finished, the drivers are waiting in the parking lot to pick up their kids to take them to the next part of the journey; it is now time for the annual After the Ball Party held at the Ultimate Goal. At this time drivers and passengers are invited inside to play more games, as well as sharing in much more food, however this is also the time that student safety is taken off of the shoulders of the drivers as they are done for the night. Each year the graduating seniors pick a theme for their After the Ball Party such as: Disco Fever, Casino Night, Hollywood, Mardi Gras and so many more. generation
Twenty-nine years ago when this notable event was in its infancy, approximately fifty percent of the seniors took advantage of the free classic rides. Since then the participation rate has hit 100%, however averages around 85% each year as some seniors like to drive their own rides. Students sign papers stating that there will be no alcohol or drug use during this event which this goes for the drivers as well. Preparation for this event begins in October of the previous year and continues until the night of the Senior Ball. It takes over 400 volunteers and a lot of funds to prepare and execute an event such as this. Throughout the year bottle and can drives and car wash fundraisers are held while the largest dollar amount comes from the sale of raffle tickets. Even though the Crystal Ball Cruise is for the seniors and supported by their parents, it is a separate entity from Marcellus School District. Many Marcellus alumni continue to donate funds in support of such a worthy cause even though they may live hundreds of miles away.
Jack has stayed involved in the Crystal Ball Cruise since its inception and continues to do so with no signs of stopping in the near future. Jack has lost two brothers to drug/alcohol abuse and he says if he can prevent just one teenager from the same all this work is worth it. Many of the volunteers had graduating students years ago, but stay involved for the same reason.
There have been many times through the years school districts from all over New York State have sent representatives to talk with Jack and see how this evening unfolds. On request of a school district, Jack has even traveled out state to present this information so these other areas can keep their seniors safe on a very busy exciting evening. For more information about this event, Jack can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keeping kids safe is the Ultimate Goal!
Words and pictures by Mike Mastracco