Stillwater Area High School takes a new approach to homecoming

Ava Coleman is crowned 2016 homecoming queen during a pep fest last year. (Gazette file photo)

Students, staff and community members are hoping that this year’s homecoming next week is one Stillwater Area High School won’t soon forget.

Due to the early football schedule, the homecoming game will take place in September instead of its more traditional spot in October, leaving students only a couple weeks after school started to plan school-spirit inducing events.

“It’s been tough for our student council and National Honor Society students,” said teacher and advisor Dusty Dennis. “With the school addition opening and two classes of new students to the high school, it’s been a busy first couple weeks. We are really lucky that our students are doing an amazing job.”

By happy accident, this year’s homecoming  football game will be Stillwater Area High School’s 1,000th football game.

“That was a nice surprise,” Dennis said.

Along with planning the traditional events of the homecoming dance, pep fest, Powderpuff game, coronations and other spirit festivities, the high school will play host to a new Pony Homecoming Carnival. Students, parents, alumni and community members are invited 4-6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15, on the high school campus. The event features carnival games and activities, musical performances, food trucks, concessions and more.

“We have tried some community events in the past because there is a big push from the wider community and across the district for an event that brings in more than just the high school community,” Dennis said.

While past events have had varying degrees of success, Dennis hopes the homecoming carnival becomes a lasting tradition because of the input and interest of the students.

“I always say that you need to have student input and buy-in from the students,” he said. “It has to interest them or they are not going to be as excited about it.”

Student council president Annabel Gregg said she has been part of homecoming planning for the past three years and is excited to see the new events this year. Gregg’s favorite part of homecoming week is the student dance in the high school gym, scheduled for Sept. 9.

“Everyone gets dressed up and we just relax and have fun,” she said.

Gregg hopes all the hard work put in by the students pays off when the community comes to the homecoming carnival and football game.

“The carnival is exciting because we are working with the community to take part in the homecoming traditions,” Gregg said. “I would encourage the community to come, weather you have younger kids or are alumni or just members of the community.”

At the start of the carnival on Sept. 15, there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new additions to the high school. Gregg said she volunteered to be a tour guide for the public to see the new academic areas.

“I hope members of the community come in and say hi,” she said.

One of the challenges of planning a community homecoming event is the size of the district, Dennis said.

“Our district is huge and spans a large area and many small communities,” he said. “This is going to be a celebration for the whole district.”

The carnival will have 10 inflatables — including an obstacle course — and activities for kids in preschool to high school, as well as music and food that alumni, parents and other community adults can enjoy.

“Right now, we are putting on the carnival with donations and sponsors and we are fundraising with T-shirts so that we can have a little money to start to put together next year’s carnival,” Dennis said.

Brookview Elementary, located at 11099 Brookview Road in Woodbury, will hve its open house 6-8 p.m. Sept. 12, with a ribbon cutting at 6 p.m. nad tours to follow.

The weeklong festivities end with the homecoming football game against Roseville at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Pony Stadium, 5701 Stillwater Blvd., in Oak Park Heights.

Additional information can be found at stillwaterschools.org

Contact Alicia Lebens at [email protected]