Joliet Central Steelmen had their school pride on full display during the annual homecoming parade Sept. 17.
Misty Uher, a sponsor for Central’s student council, said the parade does a good job of kicking off homecoming weekend.
“[It’s] just getting the kids excited for the football game,” she said of this year’s matchup against Plainfield Central. “They’re really pumped up about that, as well as the dance. It’s just a good way to start the school year.”
From the school board to the cheerleading squad; the soccer team to the marching band, more than 15 different groups from campus organizations took part in this year’s parade.
Ninth-grade student Edward Lopez was marching in the parade with his soccer teammates. He said he never imagined the way the parade would draw crowds to the downtown.
“I thought it was going to be way smaller, but it’s a lot bigger,” Lopez said.
The Joliet Central freshman added that he loves the way people have decided to demonstrate their school spirit during the event.
“It’s actually pretty competitive,” Lopez said. “Some people want to show more spirit and more face paint and all that.”
Junior Courtnee Hampton said seeing the reaction of kids in the crowds is nice.
“The kids love when we throw candy,” she said. “They’re eventually going to be coming here, and to see the school spirit… they’re going to be really anticipating coming to Central.”
Hampton said the football game is one of her favorite homecoming week activities.
“Win or lose, we have fun all the time,” she said. “The team has fun, the people have fun; even the opposing team has fun.”
As an upperclassman in her final year at Joliet Central, senior Brenna Rande said homecoming week has special meaning.
“It’s the last big event, the last time we’ll have homecoming spirit week, the last time we’ll be in the homecoming parade,” she said “It’s kind of a big deal.”
Rande said the hype surrounding the celebration rings true for a lot of students on campus. Pride in their school, combined with an important football game, add to homecoming week’s popularity, the Joliet Central 12th grader said.
“The spirit week makes it a little more fun and the dance kind of finishes it all off,” Rande added.
Joliet Central Band Director Don Stinson said he thinks the enthusiasm displayed by the community during homecoming week is deeply rooted in the school’s history. That enthusiasm, according to Stinson, also plays a major part in how well the celebration is year after year.
“I think Joliet has such a good tradition out here with its very old and very great schools and band programs and activities,” he said. “I think that’s special to the community.”
Melissa Northington, of Joliet, was one of many spectators waving to paraders as they took to the streets of downtown Joliet. She said she couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a Saturday.
“I enjoy it every year because my daughter cheers for the junior varsity team,” she said.
Another reason homecoming weekend is popular for many people, according to Northington, there are bragging rights at stake.
“They try to see who’s going to win the game,” she said. “I mean it’s not really all about winning, but they come out for that.
Brian Bueschel, of Joliet, said he was excited to see his daughter walking in the parade with fellow classmates representing the ROTC program.
“[You’re] always proud to see your kids out doing social functions and what not at school,” he said.
This year was Bueschel’s second time attending the parade. For him, the school’s commitment to current and former students is a big reason why the community shows so much support during the parade.
“A lot of the people from the community went to the school,” he said. “I think it brings the community out; it’s a big event for the city.”