Gibbs High School Class of ’68 passes the torch

The holiday extravaganza is back! Classes Unite, LLC, has taken over the reins of the Gibbs High School Class of ’68 traditional holiday extravaganza held yearly at the historic St. Petersburg Coliseum.

ST. PETERSBURG — Classes Unite, LLC, will continue a more than 50-year legacy of excellence that the Gibbs High School Class of 1968, Inc. started decades ago. For years, the Gibbs Class of 1968 provided thousands of dollars in scholarships to local African-American youths, and now, thanks to Classes Unite, the tradition will continue.

Sylvia Wells Moore (middle) is seen here dancing the night away at the 47th Holiday Extravaganza in 2015.

The year was 1968 — the last year schools were segregated in Pinellas County — and Sylvia Wells (Moore), a recent graduated of Gibbs High School, decided to throw a little holiday get-together for her classmates who went away to college or the armed services months before.

Each year, Wells Moore, the 1968 class president, repeated the event, but as the crowds grew larger, they had to move the fete from her parent’s home to different venues around the city, eventually landing at the National Guard Armory on 38th Avenue South.

By this time, not just the 1968 class was present; people from all classes and schools were showing up and showing out. The yearly dance grew into a class reunion for all classes and schools, with many coming from across the country to attend.

“We thought we were the bomb,” Wells Moore said in a 2015 interview. “But then it got so big…we decided to step out on faith and went to the Coliseum.”

People of ages attend this event of the season!

From 1993 to 2020, the Class of 1968 had been dancing the night away at the Coliseum with generations of partygoers lining the dance floor, reaching well over 1,000 people. Over the years, proceeds from the dance were given back to the community to fund scholarships and other worthy causes.

Like other traditions worldwide, the holiday extravaganza was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. After losing several classmates, they decided to give up the 52-year-old tradition, which was considered the “largest class reunion in the city.”

Now that the pandemic has slowed, Classes Unite has picked up the torch. The group was formed to continue the legacy Wells Moore and her classmates started decades before.

Classes Unite is comprised of people who grew up in south St. Petersburg after schools were desegregated and were forced to attend schools all over the county. In 1969, life drastically changed for those students.

Youths that had gone to school together, played together, went to church together and grown up together were now being bussed to various schools around the county. These were tough times for those young pioneers, and it would be years before they were accepted at many of the new schools.

“Although we are many years away from segregation and will never understand the pain they experienced, we have one thing in common: Gibbs High School,” said William Walker, president, Classes Unite. “We are all descendants of Gibbs, and without them, there would be no us.”

Classes Unite will continue to give the proceeds of the holiday extravaganza to the children in the community through scholarships.

On Friday, Dec. 23, Classes Unite will continue the tradition at the historic St. Petersburg Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N. The Class of 1968 — the OGs — are invited to sway down the aisle during the traditional march to the head of the class and pass the torch to the next generation.

The fun begins at 8 p.m., with the last dance at midnight. Classes Unite, LLC is planning for record-breaking attendance as they take over the reins of the city’s largest class reunion. Entertainment provided by Shawn Brown with DJ TLX.

 Tickets: $25 Advance; $35 at the door

Reserved Tables: $50 BYOB, Cash set-ups available

Ticket sale locations:

— Looking Good Apparel – 1201 34th St. S, St. Petersburg

— TET Hair Salon – 1614 Central Ave., St. Petersburg

— Big Al Salon and Barber shop 5617 E. Adamo, Tampa

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