Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Homecoming is a tradition observed at many American and Canadian high schools and colleges, usually in late September or October. Each school's activities vary widely, but usually consist of an football game played on the school's home football field, activities for students and alumni, a parade featuring the school's marching band, and the coronation of a Homecoming Queen (and at many schools, a Homecoming King).
The big game
The annual football game is usually regarded as the biggest game of the year for the school, and usually between a traditional rival. In addition to the game, the Homecoming Court is introduced (along with the Queen and King, if they have been crowned at a previous event) and the marching band performs. Special programs and buttons are often on sale throughout the week at area businesses and from students, while local newspapers feature stories and advertisements to build interest.
The school's alumni traditionally return to the school for the game and other related activities. Frequently, a high school or college class observing a significant anniversary since graduation (e.g., 25 years) will host a reunion during this weekend.
Homecoming Queen and King
The Homecoming Court usually consists of seniors. In high school, 17- or 18-year-old students in their final year are represented; in college, students who are completing their final year of study, usually between 21- and 23-years-old.
While not necessary a requirement, classmates traditionally nominate students who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to contribute to their school. Once the Homecoming Court candidates are announced, the entire student body votes for the Queen and King (by secret ballot).
Local rules determine when the Homecoming Queen and King are crowned. Sometimes, the big announcement comes at a pep rally or school assembly one or more days before the game. Other schools crown their royalty at the Homecoming football game or dance.
Often, the previous year's Queen and King are invited back to crown their successors. If they are absent for whatever reason, someone else – usually, another previous Queen or King, a popular teacher, or other designated person – will perform those duties. Usually, the Queen is crowned first, followed by the King (for schools that have kings).
The crowning method also varies by school. At some schools, the previous Queen/King walks behind the nominees before going up to the winner from behind and placing the crown on his/her head (totally surprising the honorees); usually, the Queen cries in joy while the King simply smiles. In other cases, the emcee reads the names of the winners, after which the past royalty crowns their successors.
Many Homecoming celebrations include a parade. The parade includes the school's marching band and floats created by the classes and school organizations. In addition, the Homecoming Court takes part in the parade. The parade is often part of a series of activities scheduled for that specific day, which can also include a pep rally, bonfire and other activities for students and alumni.
Throughout the week, schools (particular high schools) engage in special dress-up days, where students are allowed to wear clothing suitable to the theme (e.g., toga day, nerd day). Students traditionally wear clothing with their school's name, or clothing and makeup of their school's colors on Friday.
The Homecoming Dance – usually the culminating event of the week – is a formal or semiformal event, either at the school or an off-campus location. The venue is decorated, and either a disc jockey or band is hired to play music. The Queen and King traditionally have at least one slow dance together, after which they are free to dance with their dates and/or friends. Sometimes, the school's alumni will gather at another off-campus location to socialize or partake in other scheduled activities as their culminating activity.
Smaller school Homecomings
While most schools schedule their Homecoming activities around football, smaller schools that do not field a football team plan the annual event at another time of the year. In these instances, basketball or another sporting event serves as the "big game" for students and alumni.
To continue or not?
In recent years, many schools have debated whether to continue Homecoming and related traditions. For example, some people allege the tradition of crowning a Queen and King is little more than a popularity contest and shuns less-popular students (particularly those who are socially awkward and have few friends).
Some communities have been forced to deal with pranks with unintended consequences, large-scale vandalism, underage drinking and other criminal activities during Homecoming. In some well-publicized instances, school administrators have followed through with threats to cancel the event and only reinstate it after a series of administrator-led meetings.
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