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Back to school. Those three words bring dreaded thoughts to mind. Hot, sticky classrooms. A tired haze hanging over each day. Growling stomachs. Lecturing teachers. No one wants to go back, but we all do, slipping back into the routine that’s all too familiar to us.

Soon enough, you find your rhythm, getting back into the swing of things. You can afford to doze in class, and your body adapts to the long, tiring days. Things aren’t looking so bad anymore. You finally feel like you can make it through the year.

And then, stark against the standard day, everything changes. People dress differently. There is excitement in the air. Classes are disrupted for spirit assemblies. Everyone is watching the clock all day. And it’s not because they want to go home – it’s because of what’s going on after school.

Homecoming.

Even if you try to ignore the whispers in the halls, you can’t, because you too are secretly holding your breath in suspense for Homecoming. Not necessarily because you go to the parties, or the football games, or even the dance, but because it’s a change of pace. And, really, that’s all you want after falling back into school’s sometimes boring routine. With all that hope rolled into one week, with expectations so high, it just has to be perfect.

So, what do homecoming organizers do when everyone is counting on them to get it right?

“We’re here working in August,” said Hannah Reimer, a senior at Lancaster High School and one of the three co-chairs for this year’s homecoming dance. “We’re here after school, before school, on the weekends. One of the biggest problems we deal with is not enough time.”

You might not realize it, but a lot of work goes into planning Homecoming Week. And it’s not just one teacher, not just a handful of students. There are 17 committees at Lancaster that plan 11 events that take place over seven days.

“No one realizes how much time goes into the posters, the decorations,” said Brooke Donnelly, another co-chairwoman at Lancaster High School. “We have a committee of 10, just for the dance, and we still run out of time.”

Maybe you’re in the small percentage that doesn’t participate in Homecoming Week. Maybe you don’t see the sea of people at the events. Maybe you haven’t ever walked in the door to a dance and been speechless because it looks nothing like the cafeteria you know.

“About a thousand kids come to the dance,” said Erin Kotas, the third co-chairwoman at Lancaster High School. “And it just makes it more enjoyable to see everyone’s face as they walk in; knowing how much work and time went into it.”

But Homecoming isn’t just about the dance – many schools have a whole week of festivities.

Here’s an example from Lancaster: Start the week off with a spirit day – enough school colors to make your head spin. Tuesday, there is a 40-foot bonfire that’s just plain impressive accompanied by karaoke, dancing, roasting marshmallows – what more could a student want? Wednesday is the powder puff game, but it’s not the game that amuses everyone so much. It’s the cheerleaders – a bunch of guys that turn cheerleading into comic relief. Thursday might feel like a letdown because it’s a rain day in case any of the other events get rained out. But then, Friday. That’s where the real fun comes in. The motorcade. And, if that’s not enough, THE football game. THE football game we spent all week waiting for. THE football game against our rivals. Maybe we’ll even win this year…

And then, finally, what everyone has been waiting for – Saturday. The Homecoming Dance. It just wouldn’t be the same without all the events pumping you up for it all week. And it never disappoints. The DJ never disappoints, the food is always delicious, and the girls’ dresses are dazzling.

So, take a look around and enjoy Homecoming Week. It didn’t magically come together. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. It’s like a Rubik’s Cube. It takes some twists and turns, but when you finally put it together, it’s worth it.

Amy Bucklaew is a sophomore at Lancaster High School.