BARRINGTON – Squeals of excitement turned into growling stomachs and sighs of frustration Friday as hundreds of students, parents and teachers waited hours in the Barrington High School gymnasium to see pop star Rihanna.
The singer was scheduled to visit the school as a prize for winning the Bright Like a Diamond contest, won by the students of BHS-TV.
The event, which fell on the first day of spring break, was set for 1 p.m., then rescheduled to 2 p.m., but Rihanna didn’t appear until 5:30 p.m. The pop star tweeted at 4:20 p.m. that Chicago traffic was the cause of her delay, after tweeting her arrival in the city at noon. She had a 7:30 p.m. concert at the United Center in Chicago.
When she did arrive, Rihanna thanked members of Best Buddies, a group that works to better the lives of people living with disabilities through friendships; Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society group that raises money for cancer research; and the Brother’s Keeper club, who travel to the Crow Creek Reservation every year to rebuild with Native Americans a bridge burned years ago; for the work they did and money they raised.
“I’m so impressed by you,” said Rihanna, who posed for photos with volunteers from each of the three groups and left the gym at 5:50 p.m.
The contest asked students to make videos showing how their schools give back to the community. BHS has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and works with organizations such as Best Buddies and Relay for Life. BHS-TV also is known for its high-quality productions, and Rihanna chose theirs as the winner.
Catherine Goetze, a junior and BHS-TV’s head reporter, was asked to host the event.
“I was super excited from the beginning. I’m so excited, I can’t wait,” she said before the event.
Goetze’s parents, Mark and Joy, were in the crowd, ready to cheer on their daughter.
“We’re happy for her because this is something that she has always dreamed about, being able to interact and speak publicly. It’s just something that she enjoys so much. We’re very, very happy for her,” Joy said.
“It seems she has a passion for journalism and an interest related to something in broadcast, and I just hopes she continues to do something she likes,” Mark added.
Despite having to delay the appearance by several hours, Catherine organized the student groups for pictures and even got to ask Rihanna for a self-portrait on her cell phone.
DJ Reflex, a performer who said he flew in from Los Angeles, entertained the students before Rihanna arrived by playing music and hosting a dance contest. He left the school at 4:30 p.m., tweeting that he had to catch a plane back to Los Angeles.
Aria Dines took advantage of having a high-profile DJ in her school, and spent a large portion of her day dancing.
“I mean, we have a DJ here,” she said. “Everyone else is just sitting around looking bored.”
However, for Dines, Rihanna arrived just in time.
“If she’s not here by 5:30, I’m leaving,” Dines said before the star arrived. “I mean, I wasted my whole day waiting for this person.”
Despite Principal Steve McWilliams providing assurances that the singer was close, by the final update, students were starting to show their displeasure.
The crowd began to thin out as students were forced to leave for work or other events.
Ruby Luna, a junior, said she was aggravated.
“I’ve been here for six hours. I’ve got church at 6 [p.m.]. I was [a fan] but I don’t even know anymore,” Luna said. “I like her music, but I don’t know about her.”
Junior Jacob Bulandr, who came prepared with flowers and a sign asking Rihanna to prom, waited for the star in a sign of true love.
“I’m going to wait for her to get onstage, then I’m going to wait for everyone to get quiet,” Bulandr said. “I’ve got a bunch of guys here, and we’re going to jump up with my signs.”
Rihanna appeared to see the sign but left before Bulandr could talk to her.
One student who met Rihanna said she was worth the wait.
“I am still shaking,” said Zach Rowe, a senior who works with Brother’s Keeper. “I think she’s absolutely wonderful, and everything she does it great. I’m so happy she came to Barrington.”
William Iacullo, the sophomore who won DJ Remix’s dance contest and got to meet Rihanna, said he was happy but wished there was more.
“I wish it was longer,” he said, but noted she had a concert to get to.
His friend, Claire Hourihan, said the singer was nice. “She was really generous with the people that made the video.”
In spite of the wait, students greeted Rihanna with huge cheers and as the singer left, flocked to where she was exiting in hopes of meeting her. They were still cheering her on until she was gone.