MATTOON — A parade is still a relatively new addition toMattoon High School's homecoming traditions after being revived in 2019 and then canceled in 2020 by COVID-19.
Still, the parade has already become a tradition for many groups in the Mattoon school district and it continues to draw new entrants. The parade's popularity was seen early Wednesday evening as a long line of entrants traveled down Broadway Avenue after the Mattoon High School's cross country program's annual Broadway Bolt invitational meet there.
Those entrants included a Franklin Preschool float that used the 2022 parade's neon color theme to create a school of fish. Principal Jayme Holt said paraprofessionalMelissa Showalterdesigned and painted more than half a dozen large fish on cardboard canvases. She said school's staff also created small fish and wave decorations, plus foam pool noodle coral.
"Every year, we want to do right by the school district and make everyone proud," Holt said of Franklin's floats. "This is probably the most elaborate one we have ever had."
The parade also included JROTC cadets, marching band musicians, athletes and clubs from the high school, plus entries from each of the district's other schools. That included the newest addition to the district's facilities, the LIFT regional high school vocational training center that opened this fall.
Mattoon senior Lorelei Warren, who is studying childcare at LIFT, said she was overjoyed when childcare program facilitator Lori Ghere and LIFT Director McLain Schaefer liked her idea of creating a LIFT homecoming float. She said staff and students created giant LIFT letters out of wood frames, chicken wire, adhesive spray and tissue paper.
"Everyone was super excited to do it and we worked together. We got it done," Warren said. "I love being able to be part of the first class at LIFT and being able to build on it for generations to come and start traditions."
Parade entries from the community included the Lincoln Fire Protection District, Lake Land College, Mattoon Bagelfest pageant royalty and the Mattoon High School class of 1972.
Class of 1972 graduate Karl Probst said they held a 50th anniversary reunion this summer and then decided to continue their celebration during homecoming by using his farm trailer as the base for a float.
"We are still active in the community and we want to be part of the school traditions here," Probst said.
Those traditions include the Broadway Bolt. Mattoon cross country runner Oaklie Layton, a junior, said she ran in her first Bolt last year and was happy to be able to compete in front of a hometown crowd with extra spectators, including her fellow students, from the homecoming parade.
"Them being there and cheering for me and my teammates is really motivating," Layton said. "You want to do well in front of your school and you want them to see you succeed."
The 2022 Bolt drew teams from Charleston and more than 20 other high schools. Charleston senior runners Ila Richter and Whitley Wood said they were glad to have the Mattoon invitational be among the meets for their final year on the cross country team.
Richter and Wood said they appreciate that the Bolt's route has a flat surface, instead of the hills they often have to climb during trail runs. They said the Mattoon race goes quickly and its route on city streets gives them more room to keep pace with each other.
"It's more fun to run together," Wood said.
Other homecoming activities will include Mattoon High School students' annual Green and Gold Day of Service on Friday, followed by spirit week events beginning Monday ahead of the football game versus the Lincoln Railsplitters at 7 p.m. Sept. 30, and the dance on Oct. 1.
PHOTOS: Mattoon celebrates during the annual homecoming parade
Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud
While first-ever classes at the new LIFT vocational training center just got underway, students there didn't want to miss out on the opportunity to show their school homecoming spirit with a float in the parade.