H is for Homecoming Float Committee Chair. Eighth of 26 posts in the April 2023 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: Endwell: My High School Years — adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.
Homecoming1An annual celebration for alumni at a high school, college, or university. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/homecomingweekend at Maine-Endwell Senior High was the highlight of the fall semester – a big production number for students, their families and returning alumni.
Held in mid-October, the weekend usually featured a Friday night snake dance to a bonfire pep rally, a Saturday morning float parade, and a football game with a victory dance that night. But the big event for me was the float award ceremony at halftime, because I chaired the Homecoming Float Committee for our class.
Junior Year: Gaining float skills
About ten school groups created floats, and junior year I was first tapped to chair our class float committee. This meant designing a football-themed float, recruiting volunteers, managing a supplies budget — and organizing the float build at a space big enough for a small army of students to make and attach handmade tissue paper flowers.
Junior year lots of my friends worked on the class float – a large purple and green dragon (shown above) rushing a football with the slogan “Drag-on to Victory,” which we built in an Endicott automotive garage.
My friend Kathy recalls the nearby Pat Mitchell’s giving free ice cream to students who volunteered. We didn’t win first prize, but the whole experience was memorable – plus I learned some float skills.
Senior Year: A wild ride to first prize
Senior year float prep was a whole new ball game. The float was constructed at my classmate Rick’s house, which had a multi-car garage and a large adjacent rec room for the flower-making. His house was also the site of some legendary high school parties – and that brought a new crew and festive atmosphere to the float build.
As seniors, it was our last year at Maine-Endwell and we were together for hours after school– so why not make it fun? And if that involved a beer here and there, most of us were at or near drinking age – so what was the harm?
Merrymaking notwithstanding, we all worked hard to meet the homecoming deadline for our float (above), which featured Snoopy atop his doghouse with a thought bubble reading “We’ll get you Little Red!” – the nickname of our Ithaca High football opponents.
All was running smoothly until the day a group of us from the float build were unexpectedly paged to the principal’s office after school. Apparently, one of our classmates had let slip about the beer drinking. Yikes!
That afternoon I was so distracted in Drivers Ed that I drove through a stop sign (luckily, on a vacant street) then backed halfway up someone’s lawn doing a K-turn. “What’s going on with you today?” asked the incredulous instructor.
A standoff with the principal
Later, outside the principal’s office, I met up with Rick and a few others, including a Student Council rep. We caucused quickly and agreed to deny everything. The principal laid into us anyway and threatened to shut down the float build. Amazingly, Student Council Guy pushed back.
“Fine, you don’t trust us? Then you can find another spot for us to build the senior float,” he said. “What about here in your office? Do you want to keep the school open evenings so you can watch us?”
There was a brief, silent standoff — then the principal blinked. He said we could stay put, but our faculty advisor would inspect every night. What a relief!
“Never forget all the revelry and merriment that was had by all in the course of the years at beloved M-E,” wrote Student Council Guy in my yearbook. “Remember those torrid nights at Rick’s where much beer was consumed.”
After that, the guys got smarter about the beer. Student lookouts in the driveway signaled the advisor’s nightly arrival, and six packs were quickly stashed under mountains of tissue-paper flowers. Thus, we made it to homecoming weekend with our float completed – and with one more surprise in store.
Besides being our float host, Rick was also a motorcycle enthusiast — as were some of our classmates and a few juniors. So they organized a roaring, unofficial bike contingent behind the senior float for the Saturday morning parade — including me riding with Junior, my crush from the class below me, on his new Harley.
As the parade formed up, the bikers moved into place — but Junior’s motorcycle kept stalling. Finally, he turned back to me and yelled, “We’ll have to ride straight to the high school and wait for the parade there.”
That’s how we ended up zooming like a rocket past my astonished dad, who was filming the festivities (and who later made me swear never to ride on a motorcycle again)!
Looking back, I think of that ride as my victory lap. Because at the homecoming game, our football team lost to Ithaca despite making a good showing — but our Senior Class Float saved the day by winning First Prize!
“Never forget the parties and the fun on bikes (float parade),” Rick wrote in my senior yearbook. Nope, never will I ever!
Up next, I is for Illicit Harpur College poetry readings. Please stop back.