Friday Night Lights in The Dalles means music, pizza, raffle prizes and vaccines

Some 240 students and their family members got their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the successful “Friday Night Lights” event at Wahtonka Field in The Dalles on Friday, April 23.

The event, put on by North Central Public Health District (NCPHD), was aimed at 16- and 17-year-olds, who became eligible for the vaccine April 19. The football field was transformed into an outdoor vaccine site, with tents protecting four vaccine stations from the famous Gorge winds.

Students were treated to music, free pizza and snacks, and of course, the football field’s lights were flipped on as daylight dimmed at the early evening event. Student emcee Quinn Raffensberger, a senior at The Dalles High School, announced raffle prize winners every 15 minutes.

Special guest Shemia Fagan, Oregon’s secretary of state and a former student of both Dufur and The Dalles schools, donned a football jersey loaned to her by Dufur Schools Superintendent Jack Henderson, and thanked students for their contribution to stopping the pandemic. She likened their combined efforts to the sandbagging efforts the community made during the 1996 floods.

“Thank you for throwing sandbags around our community,” she told students. “You can stop this pandemic from destroying our community.”

Student Miguel Zamora said, “I got vaccinated to help protect myself and others!”

Wasco County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteer Dr. George Pantely oversaw the observation area, where those who just got vaccinated are observed for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on their medical history. He said he’s volunteering “because this is the biggest medical event in my lifetime. I wanted to be involved and help out.”

Maddie Dollarhide, a junior at Dufur, said, “Honestly, at first I was nervous and scared to get the vaccine, but one day I woke up and decided I would rather do my part to help my family and community, and face my fear, to be part of the positive changes.”

Student Ashley Bailey, who was one of the first students vaccinated, said, “This way I am able to protect my fellow peers and my family. I also got it because it is proven to help.”

Students will be back on May 14 at Wahtonka for their second dose of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, NCPHD has another Pfizer clinic this Friday, April 30, that is open to everyone. To book an appointment, visit or call 541-506-2600.

This article first appeared in the April 29, 2021 issue of Oregon Coronavirus Update.