Pep rallies, parades, floats, football games and dances. Every October the Smyrna/Clayton community comes together to celebrate Homecoming. While some traditions may fade throughout the years, homecoming is the one thing Smyrna and Clayton residents have continued to celebrate since the first one in the fall of 1955.
The early days
Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten graduated from John Bassett Moore High School in 1966.
"Homecoming was a big thing to the classes. We could not wait to begin float," Masten said.
Masten said floats were done in someone's garage. Work began the third week in September and the students worked on the floats as long and late as the homeowner allowed the students to do so.
"We didn't have the nice color tissue or the beautiful streamers they use now," Masten said. "We used folded Kleenex, stapled it on the chicken wire and fluffed white tissues for hours. We had a blast."
She said working on the floats fostered a tremendous amount of spirit and camaraderie among classmates. The joy of homecoming was something Masten again experienced with her children and grandchildren.
Her favorite memories involve the school dance.
"It was my first date, my first party dress, first flower and I had a wonderful time," Masten said. "I can't wait to see the floats march up Main Street this year."
Smyrna School District Superintendent Debbie Wicks has loved the experience of Homecoming since she was in high school; Wicks graduated from the high school in 1964.
Wicks said when she was in school there were no class advisors and crepe paper was used to do the floats; the paper ran if it got wet. She said chicken wire was used back then and continued to be used through the 90s.
She said for years there were no rules and one a class used a motor to run the float; after that things needed to change. Now classes only have two weeks to work on the float for set periods of time and motors among other items can't be used on the float.
Building floats and friendships
Float construction over the years has also proved to be a great way to build relationships with fellow classmates, Wicks said.
"Everybody is needed to fluff flowers and build the float," Wicks said. "It's a unique project where students work on the float together for two weeks in a cold barn."
Wicks said working together on the float allows students to learn about other classmates and is a great group project, win or lose.
"I can't think of another project that does the same thing," Wicks said.
Smyrna High School 1981 graduate Jacquie Blevins said she liked dressing up and going to dinner with her friends. She also enjoyed working on the floats and seeing graduates come back.
Class of 1985 graduate Dave Chambers said the students in the 80s took school spirit to a different level following the popular "Ghostbusters" movie.
In 1984, Chambers and his fellow "Floatbusters" cut the roof off an old car owned by one of their parents, spray painted it black and drove it in the parade. Two classmates dressed as "Homecoming King and Queen Candidates Earl and Erma Butz" and rode in the car.
Chambers said the prank was one of the few times the school administrators actually went along with their antics, letting them in the parade and later on the football field with the floats and queen candidates.
The love of floats continues to this day with current students. Class of 2016 President Katelynn Fuhr said she likes working on the float and hanging out with her friends. This year they're planning the annual homecoming dance.
"It's really time consuming but our advisors helping makes it really easy," Fuhr said. "I like float and spending time together as a class."
A love for Smyrna
So what makes homecomings here so great? Some residents feel it's the tradition of the towns.
Ashton Anspach Coleman, a 2004 graduate of Smyrna High, said homecoming is a way for everyone to come together and celebrate. Now as a mother of two young daughters, Coleman is getting to experience homecoming with them.
Class of 2006 graduate Morgan Scuse is now a teacher and advisor to Class of 2016. She said she liked homecoming as a student because of the social aspect.
Teacher Jennifer Lindell is a co-advisor of the Class of 2016; she graduated from Caesar Rodney. While CR did have homecomings, she said it wasn't anything like the production put on by Smyrna.
Class of 1990 graduate Ginger Barkley said she liked the school spirit and everyone working together during homecoming. Barkley is now experiencing homecoming with her two children.
"I like keeping the tradition alive," Barkley said. "We're rich in tradition and this is part of the community. For me it's all about the tradition. We're a close-knit community."
Wicks said that despite the fact Smyrna has grown as much as it has over the years – the school district has doubled in population – homecomings in town continue to have a small-town feel.
"It's a nice, small town tradition," Blevins said. "It's nice that even with the growth we've had, the new people have embraced it."
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.