Float-building competition marches on at Smyrna High

SMYRNA — Homecoming is a major event for most high school students. But at Smyrna High School, the float-building competition is like no other, with bragging rights carried on years after graduation.

It’s a homecoming tradition that each high school class design and build a float for the parade that precedes the homecoming football game.
Half-time is game time, as the battle for best homecoming float is announced.

“It’s a fun time,” said Trevor Burleigh, a senior a Smyrna High. “You get to see the different mind-set of all classes. But putting together the float as a class is fun, too.”

Each class gets two weeks to create a one-of-kind float to display to the Smyrna and Clayton communities. Judges rate the floats based on categories including originality and creativity.

“It’s very competitive, but in a friendly way,” said sophomore class president Elise Sampson. “We would make up fake rumors to throw each other off. It was very fun keeping everything a secret.”
Some of the students have siblings in other grades at the high school, so the competitive spirit amongst the students went beyond the classroom.

“It was kind of hard keeping our floats a secret,” sophomore Jessica Payton said. “My sister is a junior and she dropped me off at our site. She tried to peak all the time as to what we were doing, so we would joke and say ‘a junior is here’ and we would all try to playfully get her away and anyone else that tried to take a peak.”

“But it’s all friendly competition,” she added.
The process of coming up with an idea for a float and executing that plan is a difficult, yet rewarding task due to the short time frame students are given.

The senior class decided to model its float after the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

“We used the same color scheme as the book,” said Nicole Trueman, social studies teacher and 2020 class advisor at Smyrna High School. “Our class officers thought of it. It’s a common book for everyone, which was probably the foundation or motivation to use that particular book.”

The float has a volcano-like structure with a roller coaster around it to signify that the seniors are rolling out.
“It’s our last ride,” Trevor said. “That’s the slogan on the side of our float.”

About 25 to 35 students helped each day to finish the float, and it brought a lot of trial and error to execute the finish product as they envisioned it.
“We put our heads together to see how we were going to make this work,” said Alexander Calderon, a senior at Smyrna High School. “We figured out a tic-tack-toe pattern for the top and bottom of our structure that we were able to arch into a mountain.”

“When we built the track we added in little spacers that are 12 inches between, so the cart would go down smoothly,” he added.
“If the spacing was too wide it wouldn’t be able to move and if it was too tight it would fall.”

But that type of attention to detail comes from experience, and the sophomore class learned that first-hand last year.
“I feel like during our first year as freshmen it was very nerve-wracking,” Elise said. “We made our floats and looked at everyone else’s and we were like ‘We are at the bottom level.’

“But now our ideas have grown, as it’s a different ballgame when you have been through the process before.”
The sophomore class float featured the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday celebrated all over the world that centers on families gathering together to remember their dead, and inviting them briefly back into their lives.

“Our float brings in a lot of aspects the other floats may not have,” Elise said. “Our advisors are Spanish teachers, so we incorporated the Day of the Dead and some Spanish words on our floats. I think that’s another creative aspect that the other floats may lack.”

“We also played Milford, who goes by the Buccaneers, so it tied into that them as well, too,” she added.
Spanish teacher and sophomore class advisor Haylee Lawton said watching the students work together has been a journey.

“It’s been chaos, but in a good way,” Ms. Lawton said. “It’s been the most satisfying process even though it’s stressful to see them go from nothing to the final product.”

“We had a dream board, so we could follow the vision without messing it up. But it changed as we worked through at least once a day.”

She said about 65 students came out each night during the process, and they broke up the workload by playing to participating students’ strengths.

“We had a group of kids that were great at making letters, or paper machete,” Ms. Lawton said. “We had engineering students there as well, too. It was an all-around great effort from everyone.”

“When we started it was just a hay wagon,” she added. “They didn’t know their potential of what they could accomplish when they worked together. But to see that happen progressively throughout the two weeks is a great feeling.”

Even though the students wanted to have the best float, the best feeling was the times they had creating it together.

“It was difficult, but it was very rewarding,” Jessica said. “We came together as a class and we created a bond together. Spending that time with each other was great.”

Alexander shared the same sentiment.
“As a senior it’s bittersweet,” he said. “Just knowing this is the last time we will be doing this was hard. Being after school every day and seeing everyone. I’m going to miss that togetherness.”

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