The back-to-school rush is over, football season is in full swing, and for area high schools it's time to celebrate homecoming. Traditionally a time to welcome back alumni and past students, homecoming week festivities hold a common thread for current high school students, too.
"It's really fun," said Katy Mitlyng, a student at Marshall High School and a member of this year's homecoming court. "It's the first time that all the school gets to do something fun, like have spirit days all week."
"It's just a different environment. It's kind of laid-back," said Christian Skillings, a Minneota High School student and this year's homecoming king.
Photo by Deb Gau
Homecoming traditions don’t have to be serious, as Tracy Area High School’s annual boy/girl dance proved.
The frequency of area homecoming celebrations starts to pick up throughout the month of September. Three different schools - Marshall High School, Minneota High School, and Tracy Area High School - all crowned homecoming royalty this week.
And while activities like pep fests, school spirit days and homecoming football games were common to all three, each school had its own unique ways of celebrating.
In Marshall, students gathered for a talent show and skits leading up to the crowning of the year's homecoming king and queen.
"I like all the festivities, getting to vote on the candidates and the talent show is always great," said Marshall High School student Jacob Moe.
In Tracy, once the skits and coronation were over, the party headed outside for a bonfire. The Tracy Fire Department was on hand to keep the fire controlled, while students cheered for their school and started a dance-off.
"It's something that just always been there," said TAHS student Anna Johnson of the bonfire tradition. But it was a great way to kick off the week, she said.
"It's awesome," said TAHS students Alex Meyer and James Lessman. They said they enjoyed getting into homecoming with special events and spirit days.
In Minneota, students were also getting as creative as they could with themed spirit days like "Fake Injury Day." Crutches, casts and Band-aids could be seen everywhere in the halls.
"We saw someone in a wheelchair," said Minneota student Trystin Nilson. Another student, Kyle Citterman, had so many bandages on his head he looked like a mummy going down to the cafeteria.
Spirit days are fun, but the tradition of the homecoming football game is another big part of celebrations. Homecoming games are different from any other game in the season, area high school students said.
"It's pretty exciting. The football game is probably the most exciting, with everyone getting together and having a good time," said Marshall High School homecoming prince Tyler Alcorn.
"The football game is pretty big," said TAHS student Lauren Scharr. "We're all going to get together and go to that."
Homecoming games mean a lot to high school football players, said Minneota homecoming prince Jordan Longtin. The crowds are always pumped up for their team.
"It's a lot more intense," he said. "The football team usually looks forward to it."
There's something bittersweet about homecoming, too, some students said. The experience is different for upperclassmen.
"For seniors, it's your last time to do (homecoming,)" said Haylee Davis, Minneota's homecoming queen.
That's part of the reason why students really get into planning for the festivities, added Ellen Buysse, Minneota's homecoming princess.
"We want people to have fun, and remember their homecoming," Buysse said.
- Jenny Kirk contributed to this story.