Steamboat Springs Homecoming at Steamboat Springs High School is a tradition that has changed over the years for better and for worse, alumni and former faculty say.
"Homecoming used to be a community event," said John Shikles, a former vice principal of the school and student council sponsor who retired in 1999.
Shikles said before he arrived, the dance was held at the town dance hall. Students, parents, and community members would attend, taking part in the festivities.
But over the years the community involvement has decreased.
By the '70s, Shikles said that no one knew what homecoming really meant. The student council tried inviting the alumni back a few years, but their attempts drew little participation.
"Homecoming means going back," Shikles said. "So go back and attend an event."
Jason Patrick, a 1991 graduate and current high school resource officer, reminisces about his homecoming days. "We had a lot of spirit when I was in school. It was fun to watch what we would come up with."
Patrick remembers one year when he and his friends painted their faces red and white before a volleyball game. The girls were playing Moffat County, so they hung a stuffed animal bulldog from a noose. Every time the Sailors scored a point, the painted boys would sprint around the gym swinging the bulldog over their heads.
"The community loved us," Patrick said. "They would come to the games just to see what we would do next."
Much of that community spirit is no longer apparent, Patrick said.
Over the years, the student council introduced more homecoming festivities to bring about increased student involvement, including dress-up days and the first faculty skit in 1985. Since then, the faculty has coordinated a skit to present at the pep assembly every year.
The class events, now called the Talisman events, started in 1986. On Friday at lunch, the different classes compete in tug-o-war, pie-eating, and other activities to show who has the most spirit.
Patrick remembers one event from his high school days, "They gave us a bowl of honey with a poker chip in the bottom," he said. The goal was to be the first person to get the chip out of the bowl without using his hands.
"I actually won that event, but it took me an hour to get all the honey out of my hair," Patrick said.
Shikles remembers that through most of the '70s and '80s homecoming centered on football. The dance always was after the game on Friday, and if the Sailors lost it was devastating. The football team would even pick all of the royalty nominations for homecoming king and queen.
"Since then we've tried to pull away from homecoming being just about football," Shikles recalls. The dance has been moved to Saturday night so all the athletes have the chance to participate without worrying about their Saturday morning game. That decision was highly praised by the coaches.
The coaches also asked to get rid of the "snake dance" at the bonfire, which had students forming a single file line, as they shimmied their way around the high school. One year the students danced their way down all of Lincoln Avenue and back to the school. Coaches complained that the snake dance tired athletes, Shikles said.
The parade, too, has changed over the years. The floats used to go down Lincoln Avenue, then up to Soda Creek Elementary School, and back to the high school. Now, because of the growth of the school district, the line of floats goes down Lincoln Avenue, and back up Oak Street.
Jayne Hill, a librarian of 17 years who also sponsored the student council with Shikles and retired in 1997, said that a few times the parade route was changed because the community complained about blocking off Lincoln Avenue for the event.
"One year the parade went down Oak Street instead of Lincoln. Another year they only blocked off half of Lincoln," she said. "Cars and trucks were whizzing by in the other lane as the floats went through town."
Donna Mouger-Hootz, who graduated in 1979, said her fondest parade memory was the year the gymnastics team entered a float.
"We put a mini-trampoline on one end and did flips as we rolled down main street," Mouger-Hootz said.
When the track around the high school football field was still dirt, the floats often made an appearance later Friday at halftime. The floats would circle the field along with the convertibles that held the royalty attendants. With the new improved track, that tradition is no longer possible.
A few aspects of homecoming have evolved with the times, Hill said. It was not until the late '80s that "going stag" became acceptable. Before that, Hill said, "If you didn't have a date, you didn't go to the dance."
Today, students have more control over the event.
The student leadership class is now in charge of homecoming, including the dress-up days, bonfire, and dance. Students are building the floats and the class competition is under way. Students now compete for the "Spirit-stick," which will be awarded at half-time to the class that shows the most pride through dressing up, Talisman events, and the parade floats.
Hill said the community should participate in homecoming.
"I think they should see the new building, meet the kids, and appreciate their activities," Hill said.
And for the students, Hill said, "participate in homecoming and build your memories. These are the highlights you'll remember."