This is homecoming weekend for Glenwood High School in my new home of Glenwood, Iowa.
My previous experience with high school homecomings consists of a football game and a homecoming dance. And that's it.
Well apparently not in Glenwood.
Ever since Seth and I arrived here in mid-July, we've been hearing from people about homecoming. "Oh just wait til homecoming!" "Have you heard about our homecoming yet?" At first I thought it was just a highly developed sense of community pride, but as the big weekend started to approach, I began to realize that it was so much more than that. Here in Glenwood, homecoming is probably only second to Christmas in terms of preparation and celebration.
First, there's the parade. People begin planning for parade floats before school even starts. The parade has a theme and all floats must be connected to the theme. This year's theme was "Going Green" (as in environmentalism - not the school colors, which are in fact black and gold). Allow me to introduce you the various categories of parade participants:
1. The Authorities
The mayor, the city council members, school administrators, etc.
2. The Alumni
There are floats for every class going back in 5-10 year increments all the way to the class of 1949. (Plus, the 25 year class of 1984 got to go around the route twice)
3. The Royalty
There are various types of convertibles, ranging from 90's mustangs to 20's or 30's cars with jump seats down in the back, which carry the varying levels of Glenwood royalty. There's the reigning homecoming king and queen, the candidates for this year's king and queen, and several of the kings and queens from the alumni classes (see #1). There's also the Outcast King and Queen ("Outcasts" are any people who didn't graduate from Glenwood High School. They also have an "Outcast Dance" after the football game.) and the Keg Creek Days (a local festival held in August) prince and princess who can't be more than 4 or 5 years old (see photo to the left).
4. The Kids
Now I would have expected that perhaps each school would have their own float in the parade, but no. Every grade has their own float, and every student rides on their grade's float. Even local daycare programs have floats.5. The Bands
Two middle schools and the high school.
6. The Churches
Our church was the only one with a float in the parade this year. Which means we won the prize for best float in our division.
7. The Businesses and Organizations
Some examples: local restaurants, the after-school tumbling program, boy scouts, etc. (I didn't get to see this part of the parade as I jumped on our church float as they entered the square and missed whatever came after us)
The parade route includes three sides of the town square (one small block that is home to the county court house) and the entire parade lasted over 90 minutes. I think what I found most shocking though, was the amount of people who came out to see the parade. Every inch of the parade route was plastered with people in their Glenwood black and gold - at 1:00pm on a Friday. The entire town was shut down. Every store front was covered with encouraging messages for the team. And I must admit that I, too, took a half-day off of work so that I could witness the spectacle for myself.
After the parade, people went home to rest and freshen up for the JV game, followed by the varsity game. The stands were completely packed, but we were lucky enough to find some people from church who happened to have space in their section for Seth and I. We sat between the star player's grandmother and a local beauty shop owner. It was a wonderful game and the Rams won 17-0.
The game was immediately followed by a complete fireworks display that lasted almost 15 minutes. It was hard not to get swept up in the charm of the moment. Sitting in the football field stands after watching the local team with the homecoming game with beautiful fireworks bursting overhead and every child in the town sitting out on the football field.
In the words of little orphan Annie, I think I'm gonna like it here. :-)