After a year of online learning, Oyster River highschool students celebrated with a last-minute Homecoming Fall Festival thrown by the student government.
The Fall Festival was not a traditional homecoming. Because of COVID-19 protocol, the event was held out on the Oyster River turf under the lights. The event was a perfect mix of a highschool dance and a field day. The dress code announced was semi-formal, but because of the last-minute announcement, there was a variety of dresses, suits, heels, sneakers, and even sweats. Next to the speakers and dance floor, there were three ping pong tables where students spent the night playing games. There were also classic, fun yard games like Can Jam, volleyball, and cornhole in different sections of the turf. Along with this, there was a snack shack run by some of the kids in student government.
KK Kalinowski (‘22), senior class president, helped to put together the dance with the rest of senior class leadership. Kalinowski said that the student government had been hearing from the senior class that they wanted some sort of fall dance, so they tried their best to throw something together with the time they had. She said that the COVID regulations were the biggest obstacle they faced when putting the event together. She stated,“ We weren’t really able to do the whole big thing inside, with the fancy dresses that you would consider a homecoming, just because of COVID rules.”
Kalinowski said that they had to make sure all the food was individually packaged, have chaperones keeping people distanced, and of course hold the dance outside on the turf.
Kalinowski also explained that the reason the dance was announced so last minute was due to complications with communication between the students and faculty. She said, “We had information we wanted to give the student body about the event earlier than it was put out…but it wasn’t possible to put it out until that week.” She said that even though it couldn’t be a “normal” homecoming, it gave students the opportunity to go to a school event, and get dressed up if they wanted to.
Having her freshman year occupied by online learning, Siena Schier (‘24) was ecstatic when she found out about her first high school event. Schier said that she found out the dance was happening the Wednesday before, and even though it was last minute, she was excited to go. Schier said, “It wasn’t the ‘classic highschool homecoming’ I would have liked to have, but I was really glad we had something at all.” Schier loves to dance, so she spent most of the time in the dance section of the turf, requesting songs, and hanging with her friend group.
Grace Kasper (‘25) and Caroline Allen (‘25) were some of the freshmen who attended the Fall Festival. Kasper said going into the event she didn’t really know what to expect since, like Schier, she had only found out about it the Wednesday before. Allen agreed saying she found out about the event when a classmate texted her asking if she was going to go. Both Allen and Kasper said they initially thought the Festival was for upperclassmen only, but were excited to find out that the whole school was invited. Kasper spent the entire time on the dance floor with Schier while Allen floated around enjoying all the activities and socializing with her friends.
Ben Mongomery (‘22), senior class Vice President, said that when they were planning the event they had no idea how many people would show up given the limited amount of time they had to advertise the event. Kalinowski agreed, saying that they kept their hopes low in terms of turnout. She said “Because of online learning last year, there’s been less engagement in student activities outside of the school hours.”
However, they were pleasantly surprised with the number of people that attended and the amount of students that came from each grade. Even though it wasn’t a huge turnout, Montgomery thought that the number of people was perfect for the amount of games, activities and space they had. He also added that he thinks homecomings in the future are a real possibility for Oyster River underclassmen. Montgomery said, “I think this event was a step in the right direction.”
The hard work and determination from the senior class government paid off in the end. They threw a fun event that got the student body excited to jump into their upcoming highschool years. Kasper, who’s running for her freshman class government, is excited and motivated to work on planning events like this in her upcoming highschool years. She said, “I would 100% love to do something like this in the future.”
Even with Covid-19 rules and a time crunch, it seems that the senior class government may have created a new tradition of a Homecoming Fall Festival that will continue and evolve in the years to come.
Artwork by: Gabrielle Lowrey