It's the second-most-magical, not-as-nostalgia-filled night of your life, the homecoming dance. • Homecoming traditionally has been the second-tier dance at high schools, the Steve Young to prom's Joe Montana, the Joey Fatone to prom's Justin Timberlake, the Thanksgiving to prom's Christmas. Great in a sense, but not the greatest thing ever. • Maybe it's because with less at stake, more can go wrong.
A whole week of costume changes. Spirit Week, with five days of themes requiring at least a bit of creativity to dress the part, provides five times the chances to have wardrobe malfunctions. And just when you think Spirit Week might offer a reprieve from this year's dress code crackdown, think again.
Some schools like Clearwater High issued Spirit Week dress codes that took the fun right out: "No costumes, masks or pajamas." On class spirit day, Clearwater let freshmen wear white collared shirts and seniors, red collared shirts. Whoo, daring. (Though one day of the week at Clearwater called for "Roaring '20s. "Not a lot of people know about the '20s," said Clearwater junior Joshua Huckby. "It's kind of sad, but I don't even know what I'm going to wear.")
Dance police have more to measure. It has been the norm for a while for chaperones to watch the distance between dancers, keeping couples at arm's length and facing the right direction. ("Face to face, with space" has been the mantra at Newsome High and other schools, and that was even before twerking became a household word.) But because the trend lately has been for homecoming dresses to be shorter (and often tighter) than prom dresses, guess what else is getting measured? What a bummer, after spending all that money, to be tossed out because your hem was too far above your knee, or your neckline plunged too far below your collarbone.
If you even can make it through the door ... Granted, this is an issue at prom, too, but it seems this first big adventure of the school year draws out more people willing to risk suspension or worse by imbibing adult beverages or indulging in banned substances before the dance. By the time the party bus drops them off, they're likely not to pass through the phalanx of police officers and teachers so deep you'd think the DEA and border patrol had their own homecoming dance division.
Of course, there's always the few who do slip through. Last year at Hillsborough High's homecoming dance at MOSI, a crowd of teachers and students gathered around the restroom like a group of vultures converging on a carcass on the Serengeti. It was obvious, 30 minutes into the festivities, that someone had thrown up. As the under-the-weather girl was helped up by a kind teacher who then ushered her right into the awaiting hands of a police officer, someone, in a vain attempt to prevent the girl's night from getting any worse, asked a cop how he knew she had been drinking and not just hit with a sudden case of homecoming nerves.
The cop turned in the general direction of the restroom and took a quick sniff, then spun back again with his answer. "Jose Cuervo Gold. That's the name of the flu she came down with."
Unforeseen occurrences. Hillsborough High's 2011 homecoming was the bomb … literally. Students were forced to evacuate the Wyndham Westshore dance floor and spent nearly an hour in the hotel's parking garage after school officials discovered a bomb threat posted on Facebook by a disgruntled student. Until the building was cleared, students kept the party going outside. "We are the Big Red!" echoed through the garage as barefoot students danced to music playing from parked cars.
Unfortunate themes. Choosing the theme for homecoming dance and prom is usually the responsibility of student government. The Great Gatsby has been popular of late, but one of our favorites is Fire and Ice. Sure, it makes things easy on the decoration committee (fire, red and orange; ice, blue and white) but it also happens to be the name of a style of Trojan brand condom. (Ahem. tb-two* did not know this until doing some research.) Of course, contraband condom balloons bounced on the dance floor of the Coliseum at St. Petersburg High's Fire and Ice prom last year, just weeks after a fire did more than $1 million worth of damage to the school's historic auditorium.
Countless accidents/annoyances. The dance floor is as hot and stuffy as a locker room after summer football practice. The lights are as blinding as a school cafeteria's (oh, wait, the dance actually IS in the cafeteria). You spill tomato sauce on the ruched bodice of your dress. Someone else spills tomato sauce on your nice white shirt. Your date backs out (see story, Page 13). The friend you came with left, and you need a ride home. In homage to homecomings gone bad, we put together a tongue-in-cheek first aid kit, see photo at top. If only a Band-Aid could fix everything.
Mekayla Bramlett, Clearwater High, Liz Tsourakis, Hillsborough High, and Sam Dolson, St. Petersburg High, contributed to this report.