High schools give homecoming the royal treatment

October 6, 2018
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The Hempfield Marching Band performs for spectators lined up along Route 136 to watch the homecoming parade for Hempfield Area High School on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 in Hempfield.

Every fall, high school students begin planning pep rallies and nominating classmates for king and queen in preparation for homecoming.

The event, designed to bring back graduates from years gone by, is just as much for current students and the community as it is for alumni.

Homecoming has its roots in the early 1900s at the collegiate level, where it was aimed at getting alumni to football games for nostalgia and to encourage donations to their alma maters.

Shortly after, high schools started to take notice and created homecoming traditions of their own.

Franklin Regional School District has a tradition of holding a massive bonfire each year, where an effigy of the opposing team’s mascot is often set ablaze.

The fire is so big that local firefighters stay on scene to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

“It’s definitely gotten much bigger over the years,” said Amy Smith, teacher and homecoming adviser. “I think it’s a really neat tradition that our school has.”

Smith said there have been some changes in the past few years that reflect the evolution of homecoming.

“We’ve gotten much more modern in the way we vote for (king and queen),” she said. “It’s no longer paper ballots -- it’s all digital.”

She said the way students ask each other to the homecoming dance is more sophisticated and elaborate, with some students getting their prospective date a bouquet of flowers, making signs and planning surprises.

“I remember when I was in high school, my ... friend’s boyfriend decorated her car,” she said. “We all thought that was incredible, but now that would be a pretty low-key dance proposal.”

Teacher Hannah Beno said she thinks the dance proposal trend started with prom and spread through social media.

“A few kids probably did something special for their girlfriend ... before you know it, it’s just completely snowballed,” she said. “It’s a whole game-changer.”

David Uhring, teacher and homecoming adviser at Hempfield Area High School, said some traditions have fallen out of favor over the years because students have become so busy and involved in extracurricular activities.

He said building floats for the parade used to be a big part of their homecoming.

“It’s a little bit harder to get (participation),” Uhring said. “People have different lives today.”

Even without the floats, the parade still remains a focal point of the homecoming.

“It is certainly a highlight of the early back-to-school session,” he said.

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