Tag Archives: homecoming

Life in a Small Town: The Homecoming Parade

Hi Everyone!

Last week was a very off week for me, since I managed to develop bronchitis (yes, again, for those of us who have been with me since April and before) but I am going to try to get back into the swing of things.  Today, I’d thought I’d share with you the homecoming parade that our town held a couple of Fridays ago. 

Homecoming in a small town, especially one as small as mine, is a very special occasion.  With only three schools – one elementary school, one middle school, and the high school – you can pretty much expect the whole town to either participate in it, or to watch it.  This year was no exception.  The schools let out early the Friday afternoon before the game, and the parade started promptly at 2. 

Here are some of the people starting to congregate about 30 minutes in advance.  This was one of the less densely populated spaces but by the time the parade begins, both sides of the road are solidly lined with people for the eight blocks of the parade route:  from the high school, through downtown, over the bridge by the dam and then by City Hall and the town library. 

Veteran's Park

Parades in my town usually begin with a police escort, so the excitement began to build once we could see the lights of the police K-9 unit leading the parade in the distance.

Once the first police unit came by, a few other police cars followed, then trucks filled with city councilmen throwing candy at the bystanders came next.  (This is a tradition apparently unique to our town, but every parade has people with boxes and boxes of candy to throw out to the crowd.)  I especially like it when you see someone particularly enjoying himself while he does it. 

Having fun with the job!

The next group to arrive were the high school varsity football players.

The High School Football Team

The football team was followed by the high school’s marching band, which is a very good band, especially considering the size of our town and our high school.  The band consists of the majorettes, the flag corps, and then, of course, the musicians.  Their uniforms, which sport the high school colors of purple and gold, are resplendent in the sun.  (I suspect that an LSU fan who wandered into our town during the parade would have an eerie deja vu sensation, since the colors are very like those of the LSU Tigers, and our team is named the Tigers also.)

The Band Approaches

The band is led by the majorettes and flag corp.

The musicians come next.

And the Drums Play On

Eventually, the Homecoming Court came by on their own float.  This float is always Kayla’s favorite, and since her baton class participates in the parade, she expects me to take good pictures of it.  I never really thought about it before, but it must take a great deal of poise to sit on a truck-driven platform on a folding chair wearing an evening gown and waving gracefully.   (Obviously, the tiger behind the Homecoming Court is NOT wearing an evening dress; he is one of our mascots.)

The Homecoming Court

I found out later, in the following week’s paper, that this lovely young lady ended up being Homecoming Queen.

A number of other groups and floats passed by, including the varsity cheerleaders riding in the back of a pickup truck, several baton groups from the various groups around town, and the class floats.  In front of each class float were class representatives, mostly riding on top of convertibles.  My favorite class float was the Freshmen float and representatives. 

I liked the representatives because they had the courage to be different:

The Freshmen Representatives

And the Freshmen float because it had a more original slogan then the other three – all of their themes involved either harming Eagles or making them mad.  (Our town doesn’t have anything in general against eagles; that was just the name of the team our team was playing.)

Beat Down in T-Town

The Freshmen Float

My other favorite float was the Future Farmers of America’s float.  I just thought it turned out nicely.

Future Farmers of America Float

From my perspective, though, the most important part of the parade had yet to pass.  Before that part reached me, though, the Youth Football League put its players on display:  the Midgets, the Crickets and the Termites.  Some of the squads have age-matching cheerleaders, too.

TYFL Midget Cheerleaders

TYFL Midget Football Players

The Cricket football players were throwing candy enthusiastically with an eye to strengthening their arm:

TYFL Cricket players

But the Termite players showed more restraint – or then again, maybe not!

TYFL Termite Players

TYFL Termite Cheerleaders

Then the moment I had been waiting for arrived – Kayla’s baton group showed up!  I almost missed it, too; somehow Kayla looked so much more grown up in the parade then I expected her to. 

Kayla's Baton Group

I managed to recover in time to get two pictures though.

An array of the middle school players and cheerleaders and other organizations followed as well, and then the parade that began with a police car ended up with a fire engine.  

The end of the parade

So all was well that ended well, and a grand time was had by all – and we won the game that night, which now puts us into the high school playoffs!

Have a great day everyone!


Hometown Heroes: The 214th Comes Home

Hi Everyone!

I hope you had a great weekend!  It is unusual for me to need two or three days to put a post together, but I think this one was worth the effort.

I have written before about aspects of living in a small town, e.g. Of Waves and Pens, but last week I was privileged to observe another facet in the town where I have worked for over 20 years.  

Last year, on June 12, 2010, the Alabama Army National Guard 214th Military Police Company was deployed to Iraq for the third time, this time to help train Iraqi police officers. (The 214th’s prior deployments were in 1991, as part of Operation Desert Storm, when it was awarded the Meritorious Unit Award, and in 2003. )

364 days later, on Friday, June 10, 2011, the small town where I work turned out to welcome the first wave of returnees back home.  Originally, 170 members were deployed; over 100 of those got to come home Friday; another 57 will follow in about three weeks.  While the unit draws on individuals from my working town, the neighboring communities and one small city, the deployment of 170 people always has a serious impact on small towns and their surrounding communities.  There is an economic price since there are not as many people to buy things, but there is an even larger human price – each one of those guard members have family – husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, aunts and uncles and cousins – who need to “hold the fort” while the members are gone.  I am sure there are sleepless nights for both the guard member and the family, wondering how things are going “over there” and hoping that nobody gets hurt.  A small town feels that pain, necessarily, more so than a larger community.  It is hard not to know someone affected by the Guard’s deployment in one manner or another; even if you don’t have a deployed member in your family, you know someone who does. 

These men and women, who choose to serve, leave their families when asked by the Army to fly halfway across the world in order to protect all of us.  They deserve our respect, and gratitude, and I was very proud of my town for showing out in force to demonstrate both.

Well before Friday, yellow ribbons started appearing all over town, welcoming home the 214th.  There was a yellow ribbon on the local hospital’s main sign:

The Local Hospital

at the antique and framing store downtown:

Local Store


One of the prettiest buildings used by local government had its yellow ribbons also.

as well as the town roundabout.  (The town roundabout is the latest answer to a traffic issue my town has faced for over 100 years, the circle around the courthouse square.  When a great fire came along and destroyed much of the city in the 1900’s, a newspaper article was written expressing the hope that something could be done to better enable traffic flow around what was, at the time, the County Courthouse.  The roundabout has helped some, although when I am in a particularly absent-minded mood,  I sometimes have the feeling that I may have circled the road three or four times before I hit the right exit!) 

Because of its location, the town roundabout is, in a way, the heart of the city.  It was properly decorated with ribbons was well.

Our law office had yellow ribbons on both the front and the back doors.

As did much of the rest of downtown:


On the four-lane highway through the outskirts of town, each light post was decorated with a yellow ribbon also, while every other light post had two flags on each side of it.  A huge cliff in our area, called Patriot’s Point for the huge flag that permanently resides there, also boasted a “Welcome Home 214th” sign about halfway up the cliff – someone had to do some climbing to get there!

On the four lane and at Patriot Point

Here’s a closer look at the sign:

Patriot Point Sign

The City Sportplex decorated both of their entrances with yellow ribbons:

Entrance to the City Sportplex

Looking up at the Flag at the Sportplex

as did many other business in the area, including two funeral homes, the local community college, City Hall, and a multitude of stores.  By the time all the ribbons were up, you could definitely tell that something was about to happen!
And then that something did happen, on Friday about 12:30 p.m. Word came that the two air-conditioned buses carrying the returning members were approaching, and the final preparations were made. The local police stopped traffic for the parade route.
 People gathered at spots where they thought they would be able to see the buses and the people in the buses would see them; I chose a side road for my observation point because the next turn the buses would take from that side road was the road that would lead them to the armory. From my spot, I could see people gathering: 
Cheerleaders from the local schools:

Local Cheerleaders wait.

The Crowd Gathers

And other people, as well.
 This woman was waiting for her nephew to come back home,

Waiting for her nephew

as were these people beside her:
Finally, after about 20 minutes more of waiting, we started hearing sirens and cheering coming from the four lane, which let us know that they were about to arrive!  The first escort car that pulled around in front of the buses was a local radio station’s car, closely followed by a police cruiser, who was then followed by the two buses. 

The Procession begins

More people wait

Then the police car leading the buses came up the road, with its lights flashing and sirens on.

Second Vehicle in the procession

 Followed by the first bus:

Bus 1

Then, as the buses pulled into sight, the people started waving:

Waving hello as the buses get into sight.

Finally, the buses themselves came into view, rounded the corner and took the final turn that would lead them back to the armory, where their families were waiting for them.

Second Bus

The final road to the armory

I did not choose to go forward toward the armory to see the final reunion between loved ones;  that moment belongs to the families, and only to them, but it made me feel happy to know how many families were about to be made happy and whole again. 

I am very proud of my working town for putting together a celebration that would help these military members know how welcome they are, and how much we honor their service, but I am even prouder of the men and women coming home; their service is essential to our country’s security and I admire them for the sacrifice that they make. 

Have a great day everyone!