The sound of something hitting the ground resulted in a mad scramble in the Williamstown High School office Wednesday afternoon, with a trio of seniors proudly proclaiming they had found the elusive "spirit stick."
"This is the biggest thing that everybody wants," said senior Ashley Umstot, indicating the golden track baton that dropped from its hiding place beneath a table in the lobby when the duct tape securing it gave way.
"(Some students) have been looking for it since Monday and it wasn't even hidden" until Wednesday, laughed interim Principal Dave Burton.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Williamstown High School seniors, from left, Stacie Burns, Ashley Umstot and Morgan Wright laugh as they describe how they found the spirit stick, which fell from where it had been taped beneath a table in the office lobby Wednesday. The students were dressed up for Disney Day, which, like the spirit stick search, is part of the Spirit Week activities leading up to Friday’s Homecoming game.
If the spirit stick search - for which the prize is precious bragging rights - wasn't enough of a clue that this is homecoming week at Williamstown, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" inspired attire worn by Umstot and fellow senior Morgan Wright, along with senior Stacie Burns' "Aristocats" costume, provided the needed confirmation.
Meanwhile, some students at Marietta High School were clad in jorts and flannel, their Fort Frye counterparts dressed in Disney or 1980s-themed outfits and some Belpre students went geek chic for Nerd Day. These clothing themes and others throughout the week were part of the schools' traditional homecoming celebrations that will culminate with parades and the crowning of royalty at Friday night's football games.
"It means a time to float build with friends and have a good time at the game and the dance," said Fort Frye homecoming queen candidate Hannah Willey.
Belpre - bonfire, cookout and dance at the school, open to the community, 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday; game, 7:30 p.m. vs. Eastern.
Fort Frye - parade, 6 p.m. from high school to Ohio 60 and 339, then back to stadium on Third Street; game, 7 p.m. vs. Frontier.
Marietta - parade prior to the football game, from Marietta Middle School to Don Drumm Stadium; game, 7 p.m. vs. Cambridge.
Williamstown - parade, 1:30 p.m., travels throughout the city, starting and finishing at Tomlinson Park; game, 7:30 p.m. vs. St. Marys.
Willey said she's participated in "spirit week" activities in years past, but as a senior and student council president, she's right in the thick of planning the week's events and helping make them happen.
"Usually I'm the one that's observing what goes on and hadn't realized how much work goes into everything and how much stress," she said. "But it's all fun in the end."
Willey and the other nine queen and king hopefuls have been preparing for today's assembly in which the candidates perform a skit before their fellow students cast their votes. Hers will involve dancing for a satirical elderly aerobics class, while student council Vice President Allie Lawrence will put on a skit based on a "Dating Game"-like show.
"I'm actually not really that nervous yet," Lawrence said. "I'm sure that I'll be nervous right before, but I think it'll be a lot of fun."
Both girls said they won't be campaigning for the title of homecoming queen.
"We're all actually really close friends, so whoever gets it, I don't think anyone will be mad," Willey said. "We'll just be really excited for the other person."
Marietta High School senior and homecoming queen candidate Meredith Haught said participating in spirit week activities leading up to homecoming is a way to take school spirit and pride to the next level. It doesn't hurt that some teachers toss a few bonus points in for students who dress up.
She earned some extra credit in English when she and a friend showed up for Tuesday's Twin Day clad in matching West Liberty University T-shirts, dark skinny jeans, gray Converse shoes and with their hair straightened and parted on the same side.
"It has to be like the entire outfit, hairstyle, everything," Haught said.
It's not just the students who get involved in homecoming. MHS Assistant Principal Chad Rinard said he saw some teachers dressed up as book or movie characters for Monday's Character Day.
The week also includes contests, like boys volleyball games between different classes on Tuesday and the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes competing to decorate the rock on which messages are painted in the school's parking lot.
"It just allows the students (to) kind of let down and relax a little this week," Rinard said.
While three universities - Missouri, Illinois and Baylor - all have claimed to be the originator of homecoming, each of those celebrations centered on bringing alumni back to show support for their alma mater. That's a part of local high school homecomings as well, particularly on game day.
"It's a huge crowd for our homecoming game," said Fort Frye student council adviser Teresa Collins. "You see kids coming back from college. This is a small town, and it's a big event."
Belpre High School Principal Dennis Eichinger said the school hopes to have some former players and coaches accompany the team captains onto the field for Friday's coin toss. Tonight, the school will have an open-to-the-public cookout in conjunction with parent-teacher conferences prior to the pre-home game bonfire, a tradition revived this season.
"It just seemed like a good thing to do to help celebrate with our community and our current students," Eichinger said.