When Rock Bridge homecoming planning began, Student Council President Ryan McNutt knew one thing for sure.
“I just wanted homecoming to be better than last year,” said McNutt, a senior. “Everyone knows that Student Council is in charge of it, and I’m the head of Student Council, so it falls on me if it isn’t good.”
This week, several events are planned to mark homecoming at the school: a bonfire Wednesday, a pep assembly Thursday, a football game Friday against Liberty and a dance Saturday evening. Classes are canceled on Friday because of a teachers’ meeting.
“The thing I think receives the least amount of press, and is most exciting, is the bonfire,” McNutt said. It is the second year for the event.
“It’s something that hasn’t been done much in the past that I think will be a really good thing,” said Josh McNutt, who is Ryan’s twin brother and vice president of the senior class.
This year, the council has invited a grand marshal for the bonfire: John Henage, who coached Rock Bridge football from 1977 to 1998.
“I was very excited that they asked me,” Henage said. After being a teacher, coach and athletic director at Rock Bridge for 21 years, “you get attached to a place.”
Henage led the football team to three state championships, winning the 3A title in his rookie season. He also coached the golf team to two state titles.
“It wasn’t the wins and losses, it was the kids,” Henage said. “I wanted them to walk away and have a great time. Winning wasn’t the main purpose.”
Josh McNutt said he thinks Henage will be perfect for the job.
“He knows the school, he knows what we’re about,” he said. “A grand marshal will get people excited about what’s going on, and that’s what we want.”
Henage will ride to the bonfire site in a Jeep, leading nine other Jeeps carrying the homecoming queen candidates and their escorts, said Karla Kruse, treasurer for the Student Council and candidate for homecoming queen.
“Jeeps are easy to sit on the back of because of the open top,” Kruse said. They are also “rugged” and go along with the outdoor theme of the bonfire, she said.
After the Jeeps drive up, the pep band, cheerleaders and the pom squad will perform the fight song, Kruse said. Then the cross country team will dash in with the torch to light the fire, she said.
“The cross country team was asked to run the torch in because they have a lot of school spirit,” Kruse said.
The running in of the torch is symbolic of this year’s theme, the Olympics, said Ashley Miles, the council’s secretary and another candidate for queen.
Once the bonfire is blazing, Henage will rally the crowd in anticipation of the Bruins’ game against the Blue Jays.
Henage said he will talk about his first season at Rock Bridge and other experiences.
“A lot of times I think kids don’t think about the past,” Henage said. “I want to tell them all about the past, about the people that came before them.”
The bonfire was started in part to create a tradition after Rock Bridge stopped having a joint homecoming with Hickman High School. The two schools shared a parade. That changed two years ago when the schools became part of different conferences and can no longer find a weekend in early fall when they each had home games, said Kathy Ritter, Rock Bridge assistant principal and sponsor of the Student Council.
Josh McNutt thinks the Olympic theme is a good one.
“Even though it’s not an Olympic year, I think people will participate be-
cause everyone likes sports,” he said.
Each day this week features a different spirit day that ties in with the Olympics. For example, Monday was Toga Day, so students came to school dressed in togas, sandals and laurels.
At halftime, the nine candidates for queen will walk onto the field wearing laurel wreath crowns.
“After all the girls are introduced, the winner will be announced and presented with a real crown,” Miles said.
And for the dance, the council plans to rent columns for background decoration, Ryan McNutt said. He said students may wear their togas if they want.
Another focus of homecoming is raising money for Hurricane Katrina relief.
“All the games and activities will raise money for the Hickman vs. Rock Bridge Hurricane Katrina relief fund,” Ritter said.
During the week, the queen candidates do activities during lunch hours, Josh McNutt said.
One of these will be a contest in which they sell toys and trinkets, Ritter said. The girls will run around the school and sell the items for as much money as they can to see who can raise the most money.
Ryan McNutt said that so far, things are going pretty well: “It’s going to be good.”