wilson grad crowd

Stands are packed Thursday for the Wilson High School graduation.

Counterfeit tickets led to a large crowd of family members getting stopped outside the entrance to Wilson High’s stadium for about an hour Thursday evening, June 13, as the school’s graduation ceremony was underway, school officials say.

About 200 people tried to enter the stadium, at Seventh Street and Ximeno Avenue, in Long Beach, both shortly before and during the commencement ceremony, which began at 5 p.m. But they weren’t allowed in, multiple people there said.

One family member, reached by phone, said the gates closed at 4:45 p.m.

Wilson’s principal, Sandy Blazer, said Thursday night that when she noticed the size of the crowd, she suspected something was off.

“In my 14 years, I’ve never had this happen,” she said.

Officials checked the tickets after the ceremony, Blazer said, and “we pulled the tickets and saw some were counterfeit.”

Blazer said she hasn’t confirmed how the counterfeit tickets were sold, but heard that some people outside of the stadium may have been selling them. Officials will review video footage to find who is responsible, she added.

Wilson High allows five tickets per graduate, Blazer said. About 800 seniors participated in the ceremony Thursday.

“We know exactly how many seats our stadium has,” Blazer said. “This has never happened before — but when I saw there were so many extra people — I asked my team to collect some tickets.”

Long Beach Police officers told the Press-Telegram they were not allowed to let anyone else into the stadium because of a lack of available seating. The officers said they could not provide further details.

The gates re-opened for the approximately 200 people initially kept out of the stadium about an hour into the ceremony, according to Jamice Davis, a parent of a graduate. At least four parents said they bought tickets in advance.

But “they still had it going on, so (the ceremony) wasn’t delayed,” she said. “They just kept it going.”

Alexis Rendon, who at around 5:20 p.m. was waiting outside the stadium, said her youngest sister was graduating.

“They just locked it and we heard that they oversold tickets,” Rendon said. “But they won’t address the crowd and the crowd’s yelling, they won’t get near the gates or tell us what’s going on.”

Marsha Wilson, who was among the crowd, said some of her family members traveled across state lines to see their graduate walk across the commencement stage.

“To keep loved ones and parents away from their students graduating,” she said, “In the city of Long Beach — is ridiculous.”

Long Beach Unified School District spokesman Chris Eftychiou could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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