Friday night in the fall means high school football in the Tri-Cities and hardly anything else takes precedence.
But, on Science Hill High School’s campus Friday night, football took somewhat of a backseat to the pomp and pageantry of the annual homecoming celebration.
As people tailgated with family and friends in parking lots near the stadium, off in the distance the sound of the Toppers’ fight song grew louder and louder, as color guard flags twirled around in sequence, letting everyone within earshot and sight know the homecoming parade was on its way to the field.
The SHHS football team performed drills in preparation for the game, as the 20 homecoming nominees were paraded around in convertibles behind school officials, student government association members and various levels of the school’s cheerleading teams.
Reflecting on when she was in high school at Science Hill, Leah Smith said the homecoming celebration has definitely changed, commenting on the difference in the parade’s length and popularity, as well as the announcement of the homecoming queen at halftime, instead of right before the game as it is now.
Smith said homecoming has always been an important activity week for the school, thinking back to her own spirit weeks.
“I participated in everything. They did spirit week all week,” she said. “They had nerd day. They had Tennessee day. We all participated in it. I even helped coordinate some of it. It was great.”
She said this homecoming will be different for her, as her daughter, Shae, was one of the seniors nominated for queen. She said the excitement of homecoming is fun for all.
“It’s a great atmosphere. Everybody out here is so friendly and nice. Everybody gets along, speaks to everybody,” Smith said. “This is what this community is about is Science Hill High School. This community is a well-rounded community and they support the Toppers.”
Buddy Bowman also remembers homecoming a little differently, being a member of the Class of 1962, which played their games at the old Memorial Stadium.
“There’s a lot of people. I wasn’t expecting this many people,” he said of the attendance at the new Kermit Tipton Stadium.
Bowman said the Class of ’62 was celebrating a 50-year anniversary and came to the homecoming game together.
“It’s a chance to get together with old friends ... people you haven’t met, you forgot,” he said.
He said he was excited to be at the stadium and was especially excited to see this year’s football team play.
“They’ve won every game and I think they’re going to go all the way,” Bowman said.
The popular portion of the evening was the announcement of homecoming queen. Twenty girls and their escorts lined up in front of the Friday night crowd and when Esanse Gardner was called out as queen, the crowd erupted in applause and cheers as last year’s queen, Taylor Newsom, passed down the crown.
“I was literally shaking the whole entire time,” Gardner said. “This has been a great experience and I’m really thankful that I got to have this opportunity.”
And of course, no homecoming is complete without a performance by the school band.
The Topper Band took the crowd back in time with songs, such as “Carry On Wayward Son,” “Staying Alive,” and “Play that Funky Music” from their half-time show, The 70s Show.