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Getting ready for the big show - Homecoming floats are far more than tradition

With Homecoming week in full swing at Fallbrook High School, students involved in float building for the Friday night presentation are in a frenzy prepping for their own rendition of “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Last year, high school students did not have the opportunity to build homecoming floats because of a concern they would damage the recently installed synthetic track surface around the football field. But by using two stripped-down mini trucks that will not leak motor oil onto the track, and an engineering plan that evenly distributed the float’s weight on the track, the floats are back this year.

Because the approval to utilize floats came within three weeks of the homecoming football game, there was only enough time to get two trucks ready for float building, as opposed to the four that are typically used to equally represent the high school classes.

Each class president sees this as an opportunity to get to know their fellow students, as well as work on a community project together. The sophomore and senior classes have united to build one float, and the freshman and junior classes have grouped together to build the second.

This allows the freshmen and sophomores, who have not built floats before, to team up with seniors and juniors, who are old hands at building floats.

On Monday, at the sophomore and senior float construction site, music blared as teens slaved away on their float, chatting and laughing as they went. The senior class seems particularly determined to win the float competition this year.

“We have to go big or go home,” said Whitney Pracht, a 17-year-old senior helping coordinate the float’s design. “Our class won ‘best overall’ when we were freshmen, and we’re determined to have best in show again. I’m putting my heart and soul into [the] float.”

Pracht said some students were disappointed that they couldn’t build their float as big as they’d originally wanted, but believes the 20 foot by 14 foot design will be enough to win the float competition.

“We’re going to have the best floats in the nation,” she proclaimed.

The senior/sophomore float will include an aerial view of a circus tent, giving audience members a peek at circus festivities, including a lion jumping through a ring of fire.

“I wish we could have used real fire,” said Pracht, wistfully. “But we couldn’t use animatronics this year, and we can’t have people on the float.”

Not every student was as animated as Pracht when it came to first designing and then constructing the Homecoming float.

“At first, I was a little ‘iffy’ about helping,” said Crystal Lowe, a 15-year-old sophomore. “I was worried that I wouldn’t know anyone, but I’ve become friends with the people here. We’ve bonded.”

“We did some crazy things to get people here,” joked Heston Horwin, senior class president. “We blackmailed and kidnapped people, and did some ruthless and aggressive things to get our seniors out here.”

The floats’ construction is not a simple task for the students.

“We do as much as we can during four hours each day,” said David Salm, senior class treasurer. “On Homecoming day, the 15 students out of each class who have helped the most are going to come and put the float on the truck.

At the junior/frosh float site, construction is much quieter, with mostly girls investing time building the float.

“We got our idea to build our float from the Casey Junior Train from Disneyland,” said junior president Demi Barrett. “”We’re going to have a tiger, an elephant, and a gorilla breaking through the circus tent with a football.”

The junior/freshman float has an intricate design, and they plan to use air compressors to make their animals animated.

The freshman class efforts are the backbone of the float’s construction, said Barrett.

“We’ve had a lot of freshmen out here helping,” she said. “They have more time on their hands than the juniors do. Juniors are busy with college prep or homework. I’ve been up until 3 a.m. doing homework. I love doing float, but it can be stressful. I don’t want to do it sometimes, but it just comes with the job of being president.”

Diana Alcarez, freshman class president, pulled several friends on board to help build the float, and has kept everyone at her site well fed with food from her parents’ restaurant, DaGiorgio’s.

“I was really excited they were bringing back float,” said Alcarez. “I had no idea it took so much work, but I’ve had so much fun, and I’ve met six or seven new friends.”

AVID students, like Maria Olgue and Breanna Vasquez, have taken the float construction process as an opportunity to do community hours while hanging out with their friends.

For those who participate in float, the friendships that are forged at float construction sessions leave a lasting impact.

“I met some of the people who became my closest friends as a freshman during float,” said Pracht.

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