Has ‘Paint Night’ gone too far?


I’ve traced the ‘Paint Night’ tradition as far back as 1966 (thanks to Patti Ritchie). Can you trace it back farther? Fess up, old timers.

Read my story below…

Has Bainbridge Graduation Tradition Gone One Paint Can Too Far?
By Tristan Baurick

It’s all fun and games until someone’s running track or patrol car gets painted.

“Paint Night” — that decades-old island tradition in which high school seniors slather celebratory messages on roads near the homes of classmates — has gone too far this year, say school and police officials.

Formerly confined to roads, painters this week caused thousands of dollars’ worth of damage when they spread coats of white latex on the Bainbridge High School’s track and the “Welcome to Bainbridge Island” sign greeting highway drivers as they cross the Agate Pass Bridge.

Police patrol cars on the lookout for late-night painters also became inadvertent victims of the tradition.

“Two of our cars had to be cleaned several times this week after they ran through fresh paint on the roads,” said Bainbridge deputy police chief Mark Duncan. “We’re out patrolling for this, but we’ve got two or three people covering 28 square miles. We’re outnumbered by a lot of people who can simply hide when they see headlights coming.”

As far back as the mid-1960s — and perhaps even earlier than that — island teenagers have taken to the streets with paint cans and brushes to herald the close of an era. Graduating seniors typically paint a large graduation year and name on paved areas near their friends’ homes. High-traffic streets regularly receive intersection-size messages, such as “2008!” Longtime islander Patti Ritchie fondly remembers Paint Night in 1970, the year she graduated.

“Back then, we kept it to the roads and just in front of your best friend’s house,” she said. “But now, it’s not just seniors doing it, and it’s not just on one night, and it’s not just on roads.”

The 15-foot-long “2008” painted over seven lanes on the high-school track on Friday night cost the school district $500 to remove.

“That was a five-hour job, with pressure-washing and chemicals to get the paint off,” said football coach, track coach and P.E. teacher Andy Grimm.

“They really hit me where I work.”

In 1985, they hit Grimm where he lived. While he never participated the tradition, Grimm said his driveway was hit by fellow Class of ’85 students.

“If you talk to the kids, they know its illegal… but there is that thrill in doing it,” he said.

BHS Principal Brent Peterson said the notion that Paint Night is an island tradition has led to an overly tolerant view of what would otherwise be considered vandalism.

“It’s certainly not endorsed, yet in this community, people actually see it as a tradition that they either like or tolerate,” he said.

Jean LeMaster, who has lived on the island for almost 30 years, viewed Paint Night as “largely harmless” until the sign she helped design was marred by a lopsided “08.”

Painstakingly hand-carved over several weeks by her former partner Ramona Rafferty in the early 1990s, the city-commissioned welcome sign was ruined by a few seconds of sloppy spray painting, she said. Police estimate repairs could cost more than $2,000.

“I was just appalled when I saw what happened” LeMaster said. “That sign took forever to make. For some little creep to do what they did is really discouraging.”

5 thoughts on “Has ‘Paint Night’ gone too far?

  1. I remember local news ragging some class in the 1980s for a ‘typo’ in paint on Day Rd. In fact it was a class from 1930s celebrating a reunion: 1983-1938 or something like that.

    Kids, seniors only, stick to the road at the top of driveways. That’s tradition – the rest is vandalism.

  2. Irrespective of any value to “antic tradition” by local student, the fact is BI (and Bremerton) has seen a rash of spray-paint idiocy vandalism in recent years. Featured on Althea Paulson’s blog (Google: notebook bi, Paulson blog) another example of idiots with spray paint in evidence. This is a case of vandalism at a work site under dispute.

    Vandalism is vandalism is vandalism. Find them, charge them for the clean up and let all island residents know Police Chief Matt Haney swings a big bat on vandalism. Hope springs eternal.

    Just wait for the political sign desecration ritual on BI to begin — or has it begun?

  3. As one blogger noted, the graffito is cosmetic while you ignore possible damage to the aquifer. Republicans seem to value style over substance.

  4. Alice A ~~ ad hominem ad nauseum dulls your point. Vandalism is vandalism is vandalism. Is that concept that complicated for you to understand?

    Check out the reporting on new “paint expression” to BIPD police cruisers. You can find the article on Paulson’s Notebook blog. Are these incidents related? Is this just another BI “editorial opinion” by paint can or paint bucket?

  5. This is an island…the kids know who did what. The Class of 2008 should collectively accept responsibility and take measures to raise funds to compensate the city and private citizens affected. This would take a measure of moral fortitude, but if the island supposedly produces the best of the best, then its fully within their capability. To the parents of these kids who commit these acts or go carelessly zipping around our neighborhoods…pull your head out of the sand.

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