Boca Ciega High principal Michael Vigue really wanted his school's graduation to be at Tropicana Field this year.
"That is by far the best venue," he said. Among the perks: air-conditioning, unlimited parking and plenty of seating.
And he isn't the only principal who sees it this way. Seven other schools will host their graduations at the Trop this year as well. So when organizers told him he could have what he wanted if he was willing to take it at 7:30 in the morning, he decided he'd rather be there, no matter the hour.
Many parents and teachers had said they agreed. "If they told us it was 5 a.m., we were going to be there," said Janet Harris, a Boca Ciega literacy coach and mother of twins.
But families trudging into the Trop on Friday morning as Tropicana Field workers were seen downing bottles of 5-Hour Energy sounded like they were still convincing themselves.
"It was hard getting everybody up and going this morning," said Elwan Chavers, who brought five children with her to see her nephew, Isiah Drawsand, graduate. "But it's so worth it."
That sentiment was echoed by Trayce McCullough, the aunt of graduating senior Jakeria Allen.
"Yeah, it's early, but you do it because it's graduation," she said. "We're here for support."
Most of the county's public high school graduations take place between 6 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday this week, but Boca Ciega's isn't the only early morning graduation ceremony. Countryside High's graduation was scheduled for 8 a.m. Friday at Bright House Field in Clearwater.
For $20 per person, the stadium offered viewing rooms and a continental breakfast to graduation spectators.