My neighborhood is a quiet one. So when I woke one Saturday morning to teenagers belting out "A Whole New World," I was a bit shaken. Then words like “rocks” and “abyss” filtered through my bedroom window. Was some sort of apocalyptic event happening outside? One strangely accompanied by Disney songs?
"Hey! Start cutting strips of newspaper," rang a boy’s voice. Adolescent grumbles ensued. I breathed a sigh of relief as a deep sense of nostalgia began to kindle within me. The world wasn’t ending. High school students outside my window were building a homecoming float.
Every year, Alhambra High School’s service organizations participate in a cutthroat competition involving chicken-wire models and loose interpretations of a central theme, waking up their neighbors until the day of the school’s homecoming football game. Think a Rose Parade float, but instead of a large, ornate display of fresh flowers, it’s a slab of spray-painted wood holding papier-mâché animals. Come game day a panel of certified judges rank the floats by design, structure and overall presentation, all based on guidelines from “The Handbook of International Rules and Restrictions on Homecoming Floats,” a highly classified publication definitely not available for perusal should you be curious and want to look it up. The club with the winning float is awarded a one-year supply of dignity and pride.Judgment day quickly approached, and last Friday, when I heard my new friends gathering to carry their float to Moor Field, where the competition would take place, I decided to tag along.
I met with the three judges, who shall be referred to as Mr. T, Mr. B and Ms. D. They’re popular AHS teachers, but true to regulation, stood apart from the growing crowd, whispering to one another over their official clipboards. Once in a while, one of the students would pretend to say hello but secretly try to win their vote through subliminal positive association, otherwise known as “sucking up.”
Silence fell over the field as the judges walked over to the first float. Las Moras and Key Club came together to create a two-sided piece, “Trouble in Atlantis,” the story of their mascots’ second honeymoon in the mythical lost city, giving “A Night in Atlantis” a much more adult connotation. As club representatives told the story, the judges quickly scribbled down notes. Mr. B flipped his paper over to continue jotting on the back.
Next up was LEO, whose float, “Sea Beyond the Pages,” held an open book with a large castle emerging between its pages on which the Leo seniors were dancing. I know what you’re thinking, that doesn’t make any sense at all. And you’re right. But it was shiny, and in this world, sometimes that’s all that matters. The club members linked arms in unity as their speaker emphasized loyalty and tradition. In spoken word poetry. This competition was just blown out of the field.
Third was “Beyond the Abyss,” by my Aladdin-loving friends from Junior Civitan and Campus. The rocks I had heard so much about did not disappoint. Their speech was memorized, an impressive touch I’m sure did not go unnoticed by our judges. Although the speaker did mention that “blood, sweat and tears” were involved in the making of their float, a detail that may have cost them marks for messiness.
The fourth float, called “Welcome to Atlantis,” was that of Kaibigan. While the other clubs had been ending their speeches with loud and rather scary chants to boost morale, Kaibigan decided they were going to cheer in the beginning of their presentation, perhaps sensing the weariness of the judges, who with the pressure of competition had begun to grow restless. After their chant startled us all into attention, Kaibigan’s float, mixing cosmopolitan buildings with sandy beaches, took us to the Bermuda Triangle for an Atlantis vacation. I was feeling quite relaxed until they decided to chant again at the end of the presentation.
Next was “The Lost Palace,” presented by Interact and Pequenitas. Members told a theatrical story with a central theme of cooperation while their float showed what seemed to be a pig nestled in sea grass. Not to worry, true to the story, the pig seemed like he was there cooperatively. If the background of this float is any indication of the talent these students have, members of Interact and Pequenitas may have quite a lucrative future in spray painting.
Last to be judged was EMEGA and Kokua Lima and their float, “Beneath the Waves.” Instead of opting for the more traditional papier-mâché route, the club members decided to make cardboard cutouts of their mascots, perhaps making a statement, or perhaps running out of glue. However, the float featured a scarf-wearing polar bear along with a monkey in a snorkeling mask, definitely putting it in the running for the Cutest category. Who doesn’t love a snorkeling monkey?
With the presentation portion of the competition complete, it was now time for the judges to make their decision. After five long, nerve-racking minutes of intense deliberation, during which many cold words were spoken and punches thrown, the judges finally decided upon the winners of each award. With six floats and six categories, no club left that night a loser.
Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the results of the 2010 Homecoming Float Competition:
Best Expressed Theme – “Beyond the Abyss” by Junior Civitan and CampusBest Overall – “Sea Beyond the Pages” by LEOBest Structure – “Trouble in Atlantis” by Las Moras and Key ClubMost Creative – “The Lost Palace” by Interact and PequenitasCutest – “Beneath the Waves” by EMEGA and Kokua LimaMost Last-Minute Float – “Welcome to Atlantis” by Kaibigan
Apparently there was also a football game that night, during which San Gabriel High School defeated Alhambra High School 28-13.