Central homecoming activities come together amid change

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By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

As school recommences, all the best efforts are made to return to normal, including maintaining school traditions like homecoming. 

For Central, this year comes with a Hawaiian beach theme for the dance, a speech via Zoom and a truncated schedule of events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While the student council is largely responsible for making the decisions regarding the events, advisor Christie Burlingame, who is entering her fourth year in the role, assists them. 

This year presented new obstacles, so the student council reacted in kind, and what would typically be a multi-day event full of activities, assemblies, pep rallies and a parade has been shortened to a single day, Friday, Sept. 25. 

Other changes include holding the pep rally, assemblies and class games outside rather than in the gym, and this year’s Homecoming Hall of Famer, Michael Osterloh, will deliver his address to the students via Zoom rather than attending in-person. 

Osterloh brings years of experience working for NASA and currently for SpaceX, the company founded by Elon Musk. Speaking about the selection, Burlingame said, “We thought he would be a very interesting candidate for the students.” 

Aside from that, the purpose of homecoming, according to Burlingame, “is to get the football team pumped for their game…and to get the students, staff and community excited as well.” 

One of the biggest challenges in attaining this excitement is making sure things run smoothly, a comment Burlingame made several times. 

“We just want to make sure we aren’t forgetting anything,” she said. 

Central Superintendent Nick Trenkamp commented, “Homecoming isn’t just about the school, it is more about the whole community. It is a chance to celebrate the pride of our school district bringing together our current staff and students, alumni and the many community members and businesses that support us. As with everything else we are doing, Central plans to continue to provide all the same opportunities we have always provided, just with some possible new twists.”

One of the twists pertains to the change in location, which means the events and activities have become dependent on the weather cooperating. If it doesn’t, they will be cancelled. 

“I am just hoping that we get through it and everything runs smoothly. Things are definitely different due to COVID,” Burlingame said. 

Another challenge is dealing with COVID-19, which has already impacted the event venues and speaker address. It will also impact the dance, as students will be required to wear face coverings when they can’t socially distance, as it is the one event that will remain in the gym. 

Even so, student spirit doesn’t seem to be impacted. Burlingame believes “the kids are starting to get excited.” 

As for what the students enjoy the most, powder puff football appears at the top of the list for the high school students and the pep rally assembly for the elementary kids. Other activities include the high school iron man volleyball, dodge ball, ultimate frisbee, six-on-six basketball and a four-square tournament.

Central Principal Aaron Reinhart summed up homecoming by focusing on the positives. 

“The homecoming football game is a culminating event to a broader experience, much like gifts can be during a holiday. The game itself is great, but it’s the shared experiences—decorating, time spent together, parade, the many annual traditions—that make the event special,” he said. “Throughout the past six months, we haven’t had a lot of that, and I hope the Central community takes advantage of the opportunity to come together and share a common, positive experience.” 

For Burlingame, the excitement generated for homecoming and the memories it creates is a key reason why she does it. 

“It is rewarding when you hear the kids talk about how fun things were,” she said.

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