School spirit — what many call Panther Pride — took many different forms at Newberry High School Friday: blasting “Umbrella” by Rihanna from the Fellowship of The Christian Athletes parade float, donning ‘50s attire to the background music of “Beauty School Dropout” from “Grease” or tossing goodies to parade onlookers.
The school’s sports teams, Homecoming court and other school organizations drove across the city of Newberry in trucks and cars to celebrate the first Homecoming parade since 2019. The parade kicked off at 3 p.m. Oct. 14.
Along the parade route, parents, children and Newberry alumni cheered as the high school students waved from their floats, abuzz with excitement.
“We're a community that loves our traditions and honors our traditions,” said Jordan Marlowe, the Newberry mayor who sponsors the student government association. “You may stop us and make us stumble. But you're not going to stop us permanently.”
The night prior at 7 p.m., Newberry students packed into the high school auditorium for the annual Panther Prowl pep rally. Classes and clubs competed in school spirit skits with about 200 student attendees.
Homecoming traditions are ingrained in Panther history, Marlowe said. He always expects 30 to 40 parade floats to be signed up to participate, he said, but is never surprised if another 20 decide to join.
“I know that my father was a part of it and he graduated in the late ‘50s,” Marlowe said. “That would at least be 70 years running. I don't know that we missed many. When we had to call it off for the COVID, that was part of the conversation.”
Newberry hadn't missed a homecoming parade in over half a century.
“It was tough; the community was disappointed,” Marlowe said. “A lot of us felt like COVID had taken a lot from us already..”
The parade celebrated homecoming court nominees and grade-level prince and princesses, who wore semi-formal attire including tuxedos and glittering dresses. Senior queen nominee, Hannah Rone, serves as the senior class president and joined the parade from the sun roof of a family friend’s Jeep.
“The students get to be creative, feel appreciated and it provides a bridges between the community and its students,” Rone said.
Rone smiled and waved to the crowd throughout the parade as elementary students cheered and waved back.
“The most memorable part of today was seeing the age range of people watching the parade and how enthusiastic that range of people was,” Rone said.
The cheerleaders and the football team led the parade into the nearby neighborhood and down Main Street. Ed Johnson, head football coach, said the parade is a testament to Newberry’s community spirit.
“It’s one of the great things about being in a small town,” Johnson said. “Kids have been very excited. Me being a Panther alumni, it brings back good memories.”
The parade route passed both Newberry High School and Newberry Elementary School before reaching Main Street. From the beginning of the parade until the end, participants on the floats threw Skittles, Smarties, M&Ms and other candies to the crowd. Elementary students crowded together to catch as much candy as possible.
“We always loved riding on fire trucks through town,” Johnson said. “My favorite part is riding down the elementary [school]. All the elementary kids will be lined up and they love seeing the football float.”
Laura Rollins, a 17-year-old Newberry High School senior who serves as Newberry’s student body president, said she helped to organize and direct the parade leading up to the event.
Rollins is especially happy to see freshmen students experience their parade for the first time, she said.
“You get to see it all sort of come together,” Rollins said. “I’m glad to see everybody happy. We haven’t had [a parade] since my freshman year, and I want other people to experience that, too.”
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Sophia Bailly is a first-year journalism major and the graduate and professional school reporter. When she isn't writing, she enjoys reading, listening to podcasts and spending time outside.