Riverside and homecoming: COVID-19 redefines what our fall traditions look like

Riverside’s student section cheers during the homecoming football game. The Pirates beat Chapel Hill 41 to 21. Photo by Tate Gasch.

Each year, high schools across the country celebrate homecoming at a big football game during the fall. Schools select a homecoming court where “royalty” is celebrated from each grade during halftime. Homecoming is also associated with a school dance, but traditions vary from school to school.

Riverside has not had a traditional homecoming in two years. In fall 2020, in-person instruction was canceled because of COVID-19. In 2021, schools began to reopen and bring homecoming traditions back. 

Riverside wasn’t the only school to bring back homecoming on a smaller scale last year. Senior Stacy Beugnot and sophomore Sarah Klaren both attend Northern High School and  described what homecoming looked like at Northern High School. 

“We didn’t have a homecoming last year,” Klaren said. Northern had a homecoming game and a homecoming court, but no homecoming dance. 

Students wish that a homecoming dance would come back at Riverside. 

“I think it would be fun, and I think that it’s something that most other schools do,” said Riverside sophomore Calista Robinson.

“Last year we did not have a homecoming dance just because there was a lot to work out with COVID rules and everything like that,” said social studies teacher Gabrielle Minnick. Minnick is also the teacher advisor for the Student Government Association. 

“When COVID came and people aren’t gathering like that so much, it changes possibly what homecoming can look like,” said science teacher Tavia Webley. 

There was a football game, homecoming court and a pep rally, but some students felt that the spirit wasn’t there. 

The football team gathers during warmups before the homecoming game. Photo by Tate Gasch.

Sophomore Quinne Rizzuto, former freshman Homecoming Royalty, said the football game was fine last year, but didn’t feel like enough. 

“I wish that there would have been more. It was literally like every other football game, except I walked,” they said.

In the past, Riverside’s homecoming was a large event. 

“There was a lot of team spirit, in that I know Student Government Association worked hard to make homecoming week something that was memorable,” said Webley. “With the different class competitions… we used to have floats… people would drive through with interesting things. So through the years it’s been scaled back.” 

Anna Allman, a social studies teacher and former Riverside student, believes the pep rally is an important tradition and was glad to see it return this year. 

“Traditionally Friday, lots of school spirit ending with the pep rally,” she said. “And then a bunch of kids go to the football game afterwards. Hopefully we win the football game, of course, we honor the homecoming court at halftime. Pre-Covid there was also a homecoming dance that was very well attended as well, and I’m hoping that will come back this year.” 

Homecoming is led by the Student Government Association and the dance is run by Destino Success. 

“Homecoming consists of the pep rally, spirit week, the homecoming court organization, and the homecoming court at the game,” says Minnick.

Junior Arleth Martinez is the President of Destino Success, which also sold t-shirts in the past. 

“In previous years, we would fundraise by throwing pies in teachers’ faces,” said Martinez.

This year, the Student Government Association worked to make homecoming better than last year and more like it used to be. 

As a result of little planning time, there was no homecoming dance this year, but school pride came back in other ways. The school boasted a well-participated spirit week, a pep rally filled with activities, and a big homecoming game win over Chapel-Hill.

“I would definitely say that we had more people participating in our spirit days then we have had in years past,” Allman said. “And I think the pep rally was definitely better than it was in years past.”

Senior Collin Phillips, the 2022 homecoming King describes what the game looked like this year.

“It was really fun; there was a huge student section,” Phillips said. “And we won big, so that was very different than last year.” 

Lenny the Pirate attends the Pep Rally. Photo by Tate Gasch.

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