October 21, 2016
Homecoming brings excitement every year as students and staff plan months ahead for a fun week that marks the beginning to a new school year. However, this was not just any ordinary Homecoming, as this was not just any ordinary year. Atholton High School is celebrating its 50th anniversary this school year, as it opened in 1966 in Columbia, called Simpsonville at the time.
The administration, students, and community as a whole worked very hard and came out strong for the entire week to commemorate Atholton’s impressive and noteworthy milestone. Mrs. DeFrances noted that there was more effort involved in planning and execution than a normal Homecoming would have required.
“We already have a lot of activities going on, the traditional stuff: we always have the breakfast, we always have the parade, we always have Powderpuff, and the game,” she said. “But now we’re including 50th anniversary stuff, so trying to make sure we got all the regular stuff done, while also paying good homage to the fact that it was the 50th anniversary.”
This year, the week kicked off on Monday with “Red, White, and Blue” Day. The administration may have gotten some flak for changing the name of the day from the previous label, “‘Merica Monday,” but the students showed their spirit with flying colors regardless.
People showed up in all sorts of patriotic apparel across the school, but perhaps the most creative showcase for the day was the senior girls’ idea of dressing up as the fifty-plus Miss America pageant contestants.
The following day was Team Tuesday, where students donned their favorite sports team’s apparel, or made up their own squads.
Wednesday was the PSAT day, otherwise dubbed as “Senior Skip Day,” where the three underclassman grades take the long exam while seniors are supposed to take the day off for visiting colleges and working on college applications. It was also known as “Groutfit Day” in context of spirit week, where the students present at school wore their most comfortable lazy outfits or pajamas, in an attempt to make the long exam more bearable.
Thursday was the always necessary costume day, where the school saw many different characters and stereotypes acted out in many different ways.
The final day of the week leading up to Saturday’s Homecoming extravaganza was Color Day, when each class wears their assigned color to represent their current year: neon green for freshmen, dark green for sophomores, white for juniors, and black for seniors. Friday was also the day of the pep rally, which was outside for the second consecutive year. This again drew some criticism from students who enjoyed the activities being featured in the pep rally, but would have rather seen it indoors rather than on the football field.
“Having it outdoors is more convenient for space, but it really separates the grades from each other and it’s hard to follow what’s going on,” said junior Veronica Adler.
This particular Homecoming was also the first to feature the new Homecoming Court structure, which is now gender neutral and consists of four people per class. Kelly McCallister, elected to the Senior court, talked about how valuable the experience was for her and how the recently adjusted model was a change for the better.
“The best part of being on Homecoming court, especially with the changes made this year, was being able to win with friends,” she said. “It’s cool how Atholton is one of the first schools to make this change to their Homecoming court and it’s really great how everyone is slowly being accepted into society, even all the way down to a school-wide level.”
All in all, it was a very successful and enjoyable spirit week, creating lots of hype for the big day on Saturday.
The festivities officially began on the morning of Saturday, October 22, starting with the Homecoming breakfast. Often overshadowed by the other events going on later in the day, Mrs. DeFrances pointed out how this is her favorite part of the celebration.
“I love the breakfast. I think the breakfast is probably, every year, my favorite part, only because you get a chance to see a lot of people. There’s so many people interacting, and it’s a very casual thing.”
After everyone’s early morning hunger is satisfied, here comes the parade. Typically travelling through a longer route, this year it was confined to Freetown Road to make room time-wise for other activities.
“It was great,” Mrs. DeFrances said. “I actually think that worked really well just coming down Freetown Road; sometimes it gets a little bogged down going down the hill and back up.”
The parade started with the marching band and JROTC leading the mass down the street, followed by the floats made by each class. The sophomores were awarded with the best float, voted on by the staff, featuring a Monopoly-style theme and several participants from the class of 2019 to accompany it. Those residing on each float threw candy at pedestrians that came to watch, giving them some comfort on a brisk morning.
Right after the parade concluded, an open house-style gathering commenced within the school building, where graduates and former staff members came to reminisce and reflect back on their time at Atholton. One former assistant principal at Atholton the late 1980s said that the environment at the school was impeccable during her tenure.
“The camaraderie of the students and staff [is something that I remember fondly]. It was just a welcoming place where the students and teachers were one. The students wanted to be there, the staff was happy. It was just a joyful place to work at.”
Another a former social studies teacher who worked at Atholton until 1993 noted how although a full-scale renovation has been completed since her departure, the building still feels and looks identical to her.
“It’s just a facade, but the bones are the same,” she said. “It’s the same school; the same building, and I love it.”
During the festivities indoors, the students participated in and watched the annual Powderpuff game, where the junior and senior girls go toe-to-toe in a flag football game played on the baseball field. The Seniors won in dominating fashion, 35-14, in a fun competition that definitely brings about some bragging rights for the winning class.
Following the Powderpuff football game was the real one, where the Raiders took on the Hawks of River Hill at 1 o’clock in Raider Stadium. An always anticipated event for the entire community due to Atholton’s recent success in Homecoming games and deeply-rooted rivalry with River Hill, the game brought a packed house to the field. However, the Raiders put forth a lackluster offensive performance and went down quietly in a 9-0 loss, in which they were only able to muster one first down in the entire game.
The conclusion of the football game put the extravaganza at the school in hiatus until 7:30 that night, when the Homecoming dance began. Lasting late into Saturday night, students cleaned up well and came to enjoy a good time with their friends to wrap up a fun-filled day and week of celebration at Atholton High School.