A former Brandon High School exchange student living in Japan proudly wears his 100-year celebration T-shirt in Asia.
An Eagles alumnus from Australia has confirmed attendance and another from Alaska is trying to make Saturday's daylong centennial celebration at McLane Stadium.
Still others from as far away as California, North Carolina and Ohio are expected to be among 3,000 to 4,000 former students, friends and community residents who are excited to enjoy the free party that a small group of event planners began organizing in 2011.
Despite an effort that includes media stories, ads, fliers, posters, handouts, word of mouth, sponsors, community leaders and social media, the volunteer committee members still fret about reaching the masses, even with approximately 2,100 likes on Facebook.
"Honestly, the biggest challenge has been getting the word out," said Cher Stanbro, who chairs the Brandon High School 100th committee. "I'm still talking to people who haven't heard anything."
The BHS 100th committee is made up of Brandon alumni association leaders; booster club representatives, such as Mary Faulk, who has two students currently enrolled; and volunteers, like Teri Wehinger, who taught for 38 years in the science department after graduating in 1961.
The group raised nearly $40,000 to pay for the event, keeping it free to attend. The only expense attendees can expect would come if they decide to sample items from the food trucks or bid on a vast array of silent auction pieces.
"We committed to raising the funds to cover everything," said Karen Rodriguez, a 1972 Brandon graduate who acted as committee treasurer and has resigned her alumni association presidency effective in April.
"Hopefully we will have a substantial amount left over to do something nice at the school."
The remaining funds will be earmarked for the new alumni association that will vote on how to spend the money.
Organizers hope for a tailgating atmosphere at the celebration, with tents lining the football field. The community is invited to come and stay for the entire day.
The schedule starts with a 5K race — register onsite at 7:30 a.m. Principal Carl Green will welcome everybody at 11 a.m., followed by performances from the Brandon choir, Aquilla, and band, which will perform alongside alumni members.
The alumni challenge starts at noon and Dr. Earl Lennard, a 1960 graduate and former superintendent of Hillsborough County public schools, will deliver the keynote address at 3 p.m. to kick off the main event. Former American Idol contestant Jeremy Rosado and recording artist Jeannie Ortega will take the stage at 4:15 p.m.
A smattering of activities will be interwoven throughout the day, including the unveiling of a 5-foot-tall, stainless steel statue of an eagle near the stadium entrance.
Lutz resident Caroline Cooper donated the sculpture to memorialize her mother, Anna Joy Riggs. A time capsule from 1972 will be opened and Rachel Hardman, a history and sociology teacher at Brandon, will oversee a compilation of a 2014 time capsule, spearheaded by the seniors, Brandon's 90th graduating class.
Former athletes, like Paul Orndorff, and politicians who emerged from the halls of Brandon are expected to be on hand, but Stanbro says they will "just come as students of Brandon" and not have any special engagements.
Among the silent auction items will be jewelry, including a $700 pendant from the Gold & Diamond Source, an autographed Ryan Malone Tampa Bay Lightning jacket, merchandise from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars and Brandon High School mugs from nearly every year since the 1960s.
Rosado and Ortega will cap the day with an autograph session at 6 p.m. and the official after-parties begin at 7 p.m. at seven local restaurants.
"It's been a great learning experience and the team has really worked well together," Rodriguez said. "I am hoping a new board with younger alumni will generate some new interest and fresh ideas."
Eric Vician can be reached at [email protected]