Some people think homecoming tradition originated when a country boy and girl were picked to lead town celebrations after the harvest was brought safely home. Others believe it was adopted by colleges simply to sell more tickets to football games. No matter how it began, schools around Western New York have some unique traditions that celebrate their school spirit.
Starpoint High School begins homecoming week with theme days like pajama day, toga day, celebrity day and nerd day. Seniors Ellen Benigno and Amanda Jordi say many students get into the theme days and have a lot of fun dressing up. Friday's theme is jersey day because the pep rally is held on Friday. People wear fall sports jerseys and many people use red, white, and black face paint and hair dye. The pep rally honors fall athletes and features a pie-eating contest and tricycle race. The senior class elects a "Spartan" and "Spartanette" to lead the pep rally.
Seniors decorate for the traditional formal dance which used to be held at Classics V, but now is held in the school gym. Ellen and Amanda say their favorite parts of homecoming are the pep rally and formal dance.
Newfane High School has dress-up days that include pajama, Mardi Gras, Hawaiian, Era, and Blue and White (school colors) day. Sophomore Kelly McDonough says each grade is given one section of the gym to decorate. On Friday there is a pep rally with competitions between grades that include a pie-eating contest, chicken throw, and a game where one person is chosen to be duct-taped to the wall to see how long they can stay taped up. A powderpuff football game after school pits junior and senior girls against freshman and sophomore girls. There is also a bonfire and karaoke party.
Before the football game on Saturday, there is a parade. Each grade decorates a float and there is a contest for best float. Saturday night is the formal dance. Most guys wear khaki pants and a nice shirt; girls wear long dresses.
Amherst also has dress-up days during homecoming week with themes like college day, color clash day, and orange and black day. Junior Erin Crabtree says contests during lunch periods include a Gatorade chug, pie-eating contest, and a hot sauce/taco-eating contest. Anyone can compete. Music relating to the theme day is played over the loudspeaker between class periods. Thursday night the gym is decorated, and Friday is the pep rally with a tug of war between teachers and students. The whole school votes on nominees for King and Queen. Saturday afternoon a tailgate party is held before the football game. This year money raised from food sales will go to an Amherst teacher who was diagnosed with leukemia. Saturday night is the semi-formal dance. Erin said the best part of homecoming is "the whole week doesn't seem like school."
North homecoming starts the weekend before the game with each class decorating their cafeteria with a specific theme. North has theme days for each day of the week and after-school activities. This year there was a "Price Is Right" game show in the auditorium and a powderpuff football game. Thursday night an outdoor dance in the parking lot features a traditional "burning of the boat" bonfire. An old boat is purchased by student council and decorated by the senior class. The night ends with a fireworks display for the community. "The outdoor dance is always a lot of fun, even if the weather is terrible," says junior Samantha Berger.
Early in the week, homecoming king and queen nominees (voted on by senior class) are announced at an assembly and escorted by a chosen group of juniors. The pep assembly, held at the end of school on Friday, announces the king and queen. The cheerleading team, step team, and gymnastics team perform. Friday after school is the tailgate party, usually with a performing band of North students, followed by the football game. Saturday night is the semi-formal dance in the gym. Limos fill the parking lot and girls usually wear long dark dresses and guys wear a shirt and tie. Junior Rachel Zammito says the semi-formal dance "is my favorite part of homecoming. I love getting dressed up and spending the night with all my friends."
North Tonawanda has dress-up days for "TNT week" named after the Tonawanda vs. North Tonawanda football game. Thursday is the pep assembly with performances by the cheerleaders and the Lumberjazz. Also, cheerleaders and football players exchange presents. Each grade is assigned a hallway to decorate. The car parade takes place on Friday. Sophomore Jenna Sammarco says, "Different sports teams get to decorate a car with a certain theme. Then we get to miss our last three periods of the school day to ride around North Tonawanda." Friday night is the game and Jenna says "Everyone gets really into it. It's a big rivalry." However, unlike most schools, North Tonawanda's homecoming game only takes place at home every other year. (Home field rotates between the two schools.) Also, North Tonawanda does not have a homecoming dance because it has a winter formal.
Lockport also has theme days during homecoming week. Sophomore Julie Buerger says, "Every homeroom decorates their door, and we decorate the football players lockers. Also, every class, and most sports teams, make a float that is used in the parade around Lockport before the football game." Unlike most other schools, Lockport's homecoming dance is informal and most people wear jeans.
Kristin Shaw is a junior at Williamsville North.