Sunday kicked off the weeklong celebration that dates back to 1957, when the “Old South Ball” was renamed “Homecoming,” Marietta High principal and alumni Leigh Colburn said.
“It’s a week of pageantry, history and tradition,” she said. “I’ve gained a really strong appreciation for how strong our homecoming is and how much the community shows up for it.”
This year, homecoming will be Olympics-themed, with a parade starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church on the Marietta Square and winding around Glover Park before ending up on Polk Street and Northcutt Stadium; the Blue Devil block party from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday on Winn Street; homecoming court festivities during halftime of the football game, where fathers get to present their daughters to the community in hopes that they are crowned queen or princess; and a Saturday night dance.
“What students get is that memory of belonging to something and belonging somewhere. Sometimes in our effort to measure education, we’ve forgotten some of the things we do can’t be measured,” Colburn said. “We need to remind the public that education is broader than test scores.”
Roughly 10 years after homecoming started, a new tradition involving the dresses young ladies selected for the homecoming court would wear took shape.
“We have a certain prescribed dress, which is really traditional,” Colburn said. “The sophomores, juniors and freshman wear pale blue dresses, and the seniors wear white, beautiful, antebellum dresses.”
The court typically consists of 10 senior girls, although this year it’s 12, and two representatives from the other three grade levels.
“It’s been through so many generations, it’s special,” said 18-year-old senior homecoming attendant Abby Crowe, whose aunt and Marietta’s school board chair Jill Crowe Mutimer once stood where she will during the halftime ceremony at Northcutt Stadium on Friday.
Another senior representative, Jordan Beckum, 17, is the second member of her family to be selected for the court. Her older sister, Alexis Payne-Scott, was the 2001 MHS Homecoming Queen.
“Everyone has such pride at our school,” she said. “Even if it’s for just one week, it’s just cool to see everyone participate.”
During Friday night’s football game against Campbell High, each homecoming representative will be escorted by their fathers or a family member onto the field, then handed off to a male classmate. Two runners-up, who are referred to as princesses, will be crowed, and the young lady with the most votes by her senior classmates will be crowned the 2012 Homecoming Queen.
Sherral Bates Mann, who now works for the Marietta school district, was the 1982 Homecoming Queen.
“I didn’t expect to win, but I do remember our cheerleading coach, because she knew, kept fixing my dress and straightening my ribbon, so at that point I had an idea,” the 47-year-old said.
Her daughter, 19-year-old Destinie Mann, was also on the court her freshman year in 2008.
“It’s awesome to see that tradition continue,” she said about homecoming. “My mom worked on the Square, and we would go up there even before I got to high school and we would watch the parade. It was just a fun time for the whole family.”
The high school’s first black homecoming queen was Brenda Russaw McCrae, who was crowned the fall of 1973.
“I was not expecting to win,” McCrae said. “I thought I’d come back with nothing. It was an honor to be chosen.”
She recalled how sweet the other representatives were, being crowned and wearing the queen’s cape.
“They had this blue cape that they put on us that was probably ancient as gold,” she said. “I’m surprised they still use it.”
Her sons graduated from Marietta High as well, one in 1996 and the second in 2005. Her youngest son was an escort his senior year.
“That was pretty cool,” McCrae said. “Marietta has a very traditional environment, and its kind of set up where things are not changed very often. The fight song was created in 1972 and they still use that fight song.”
Ann Brown Phillips, a Marietta High mother and now grandmother of students, was on the court in 1966. She graduated from Marietta in 1967.
“We have held onto the tradition of the parade,” she said. “Even when the high school moved (from where Marietta Middle is now to its location on Whitlock Avenue), there was some question about where the parade would be but it was no question, it was going around the Square.”
She also remembered making handcrafted signs and banners to hang on the cars the attendants rode in for the parade.
“It was Elmer’s glue and glitter,” she said. “We would make floats out of chicken wire and make big blue devils … it was a big deal.”
Another Marietta High graduate who represented her sophomore class on the court in 1979 is Karen Ramsey Callaway. Her son, Will, was an escort on the court two years ago and her daughter, Olivia Callaway, is now a sophomore at Marietta.
“Marietta’s traditions run very deep … I was very proud to represent Marietta,” she said about serving on the court. “Marietta is just filled with traditions that brings people back every year.”
She and her husband, Bill, who also attended Marietta High, still attend football games every Friday night and eat dinner with former classmates beforehand.
“Northcutt Stadium is like home,” she said. “It’s one of the prettiest stadiums you’ll ever go to in my opinion.”
Another Marietta family who knows what it’s like to get through the hustle and bustle of homecoming festivities is Carroll and Lynne Benson. Not only did both of them attend Marietta High, but their daughters, Audrey Benson Dominguez and Sarah Benson, did too and were crowned homecoming queens their senior years.
“It was really quite exciting,” Carroll Benson said. “I was on the field, and Lynne was up in the stands (when the girls won) and I think she fell out of the stands trying to get down to the girls.”
Two of the biggest ordeals when preparing two daughters for homecoming court were rounding up convertibles for the parade and finding powder blue dresses.
“That can be a challenge,” he said. “Especially when both were in the homecoming parade at the same time.”
Sarah was an underclassman representative the same year Audrey was on the senior court.
“It’s also kind of hard to find a powder blue dress in October. We had to have one of them shipped from Alabama,” Carroll Benson said.
The 2012 homecoming court and their escorts are:
* Seniors: Miranda Houston and Hunter Wood, Crowe and Evans Nichols, Nikki Friedman and Charles Astin, Jenessa Jackson and Draven Moore, Kylie Gucklan and Eric Henderson, Alleyah Knight and Jaylen Ferguson, Beckum and Nile Oats, Fozia Paracha and Travis Wildermuth, Natalia Ocampo and Anthony Nygen, Anna Suhr and Jake Bagwell, Amanda De Souza and Shomari Holmes and Talyah White and Orlando Frazier
* Juniors: Taylor Hartenbach and Damien Bosticknd Richard James
* Sophomores: Emily Alcantara and Andrew Tutweiler and Katie Wood and Jack Henderson
* Freshman: Turner Eckford and Korbin Miller and Amanda Gomes and James Baldwin.