Recorder News Staff
School and community spirit will be bolstered on Saturday during Amsterdam High School's homecoming celebration, with a variety of activities leading up to the Rugged Rams' football game.
The Amsterdam Recreation Department will present The Fall Festival and Homecoming, sponsored by The Recorder, with festivities kicking off at 10 a.m. at the Four Diamonds baseball fields, across from the Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy.
The event features approximately 40 vendors selling food and other items, live music, dance performances, carnival games, a hay maze, face painting, a blueberry pie eating contest, Knights of Columbus Soccer Shootout and more. New this year will be bigger bounce houses geared towards middle and high school students, according to Recreation Department Director Robert Spagnola.
The homecoming parade is scheduled to start between 1 to 1:30 p.m., featuring floats, Amsterdam High School's majorettes, marching band and cheerleaders, several sports teams, the Amsterdam Fire Department and other community leaders. The day is capped off with the Rugged Rams playing South Glens Falls at 3 p.m.
"If you live here and you grew up here, you know what a special day it is." Spagnola said. "You appreciate what we have here when you see that parade coming through."
This year's float theme is "America the Beautiful" and each grade level has been developing their own float to feature in the parade. Rick Von Ehr, teacher and student government advisor, said the floats are judged in four categories -- most creative, best special effects, closest to theme and judge's choice.
Grace Catena, a senior and student government officer, said the senior class float is planned to resemble a boat and have a model of the Statute of Liberty to show immigrants coming into the country.
Von Ehr said the juniors are doing "Sea to Shining Sea" float and the sophomores are doing "America the Beautiful: Amsterdam Community." He said the freshman class advisors are art teachers and they were planning to have a float with students painting scenes of "America the Beautiful."
Von Ehr said putting together the floats usually comes down to three weeks of planning and then three nights of intense work to put the float together.
Amsterdam High School Assistant Principal Al Mattice, who grew up in the city, fondly remembered working on the homecoming floats when he was a student.
"I remember those days of staying up late and working on the float," Mattice said. "There was a lot of thinking and talking about it and then there was a lot of cramming, but it always came out great. The floats were always something that the community really, really enjoyed."
Catena said festivities in the high school stretch the whole week leading up to homecoming. Spirit Week is held in the school and each day has a different theme, such as "Way Back Wednesday" or "Purple and Gold Day" on Friday, encouraging students to dress up.
"Spirit Week is one example of how this student body comes together," Mattice said. "Every day you can see the excitement on their faces as they partake in the daily theme. As the week gets closer to pep rally and homecoming the energy heightens and you really see a positive, fun reaction from the students."
Catena said the pep rally is one of her and many other students favorite parts about homecoming, because they are able to get together with friends. Catena said for her and fellow seniors the pep rally takes on even more meaning, because it's the last pep rally for the class.
Von Ehr said the Marching Rams do a really great job playing music to get everyone "pumped up" during the pep rally. He said the majorettes and cheerleaders also do routines during the pep rally to bolster school spirit. The senior athletes of fall teams are honored and last year the unified sport teams started to be included.
School band member Jessica Gardinier, a senior and student government officer, said her and fellow band members have been preparing for about a month leading up to homecoming festivities.
"It's a really big thing for band, because we play at the pep rally, we play at the parade and then we play at the halftime show of the football game," Gardinier said.
For the seniors as a whole, Gardinier said homecoming is a really "big time."
"All the seniors really try to take advantage of homecoming," Gardinier said. "Since it's our last one we try to have a lot of fun with it."
Von Ehr said for many seniors, the homecoming festivities is when it begins to set in that it's their last year as a student in the district.
"This is really the beginning of the realization this is the end of for them," Von Ehr said. "For those that are involved in school it's both a happy and sad time, especially as their stories start coming out in class."
Mattice said this year is his tenth year participating in homecoming festivities as a staff member and each year is different, but the consistent aspect is the positive energy, enthusiasm and pride taken in the school and community.
"We have such a diverse group of students here who come from all walks of life and the spirit week, pep rally and homecoming really unite a lot of people," Mattice said.