ZEPHYRHILLS — Donna Messing brought her video recorder.
She wanted to commemorate her daughter Leah Melquist's commencement speech and march across the USF Sun Dome stage June 1 as a Zephyrhills High School graduate.
Messing never cracked open her camera after she saw the offer for a professional recording of the occasion.
"We paid just $10," Messing said. "Because of the cost being so economical, we had our video camera there but chose to purchase the DVD and relax and enjoy the event."
The bad news came Tuesday. The Sun Dome's video crew failed to record the ceremonies for the eight Pasco County high schools that celebrated their outgoing seniors there.
So, no keepsake DVD.
"We would like to formally apologize for the error that was made in regards to the video production at the Pasco County high school graduations," venue general manager Trent Merritt wrote in a letter that the district forwarded to parents. "We accept full responsibility for the mistake and I assure you we are taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future."
Merritt was out of the country and unavailable for comment.
The Sun Dome credited the district half of its $5,900 video production charge. The rest covered other services that were provided, district executive director for operations Ray Bonti said.
Parents also will get their money back. About 150 families paid for the video at Zephyrhills, Mitchell and Wesley Chapel high schools.
Fivay High ordered a DVD of its ceremony but had not presold copies. Wiregrass Ranch, Sunlake, Anclote and Land O'Lakes high schools did not order DVDs from the venue.
Refunds can't take the place of sharing the event with far-flung family that couldn't share in the memories firsthand, though.
That's what most bothered Leah Melquist, Zephyrhills' senior class president.
"I shed a few tears when I found out," she said. "My whole family could not attend. I had a really big part in that, and my family can't share in that. I don't feel bad for the kids. I feel bad for the families."
Making matters worse, her dad, Troy Melquist, runs a video production company that regularly records school events across the Tampa area.
"My ex-husband spent all season recording other schools' graduations and here, with his daughter, class president and one of the speakers, and first child to graduate high school, and he doesn't have a recording of it," Messing said.
Just a few parents called Zephyrhills High after the news of the nonexistent video emerged. Assistant principal Scott Davey said they were understanding.
"They understand that human error does happen," Davey said. "One parent joked to me that they hadn't watched their wedding video in 20 years."
Twenty years can matter, Leah Melquist said. She and her fellow class officers are in charge of future reunions, she noted, and having the video would have been nice for those activities.
"Now we don't have that to look back at what happened," she said.
Bonti said he was displeased with the "unacceptable" video situation. It should not happen again, he said.
Still, he added, the total graduation experience should not be overlooked because of this mistake.
"We plan on going back to USF next year," Bonti said. "Overall we've been very satisfied with USF."
On that point, Messing agreed.
"The venue was great, otherwise," she said via email. "All seats were good seats for viewing, we had plenty of room and were comfortable in the air conditioning and didn't have to be concerned about the weather.
"The only thing that put a damper on the entire event was the fact that we will not be able to share it with families who couldn't make the trip, our daughter will never get to hear her speech, and we will never be able to sit down together and revisit this special time in our daughter's life … because someone didn't press the record button."
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected]