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One of the highlights of Hernando High School's Homecoming week is the student skits that poke fun at the teachers. Though done in jest, they are known for their cutting edge.

The pageantry of the school's homecoming parade also has become an eagerly anticipated event. Young children and elementary students line the streets of downtown Brooksville waiting for the floats that carry the homecoming court and its king and queen.

At Springstead High School, it has become a homecoming tradition for students to become human ice cream sundaes. Each year, during the school's Eagle Pride Games (this year's were Oct. 22), students compete in a wacky race that involves stopping at stations and being smothered with chocolate sauce, marshmallows and other sweet, sticky concoctions.

No one is quite certain of the primary purpose of homecoming. Some say it's to honor alumni. Others say it's to welcome the football team back to its stadium after playing on the road. However, everyone agrees on one thing: Homecoming gives students a chance to show their school spirit.

"I think the main idea behind homecoming is to have fun," said 17-year-old Melissa Carlsen, Hernando's student government association president and a key coordinator of the week's activities. "It's a time to have something fun to do, and get out of classes and let loose."

Homecoming's history can be traced to the early 1900s. The first documented homecoming was created by two University of Illinois fraternity brothers in 1909. The idea quickly caught on and soon became an annual tradition at colleges and high schools nationwide.

Some believe that the homecoming football game was to honor returning alumni during the long Thanksgiving weekend, a time when many college students first returned home.

Alumni are often recognized during homecoming games, both nationwide and in Hernando County. During the halftime show, which includes introductions of the homecoming court and king and queen, alumni are asked to stand and be recognized.

During Hernando High's homecoming game in early October, a group of 1967 graduates attended. They held up a sign and cheered during the ceremony.

"Yeah, there were parents there that went to Hernando, and some who graduated in 1967," Carlsen said. "There is mention of the alumni at the games, but I don't really think it is the focus."

Some believe the homecoming game is held to honor school football teams. The homecoming game is sometimes scheduled after a series of away games; the team returns to its home field to play for the home fans.

"It's really hard to say what it really means," said Lorna Lowe, Central High School's homecoming coordinator. "I think it has been a way for the football team to be recognized after a lot of away games.

"But, I'm not really sure of this year's schedule. I don't know if that's true now."

What is true, however, is that homecoming festivities create an atmosphere of school spirit and pride. Classes compete against each other, creating class spirit as well, Lowe said.

Showing school spirit can be fun. Students get to dress up in funny outfits, paint their hair to match their school colors and participate in wacky races. It is a time for students to take a break from normal school-day activities; to socialize and feel good about their school.

For the past few years, Springstead has added an evening event to its homecoming week activities. A bonfire is lit near the school's football stadium. Students gather, listen to music, dance and socialize in the fire's glow.

Central High School's homecoming week is like the others. It includes games, student skits and a week of competitions among the classes.

Following the homecoming football game Friday night, Central's Saturday night homecoming dance has become the awaited finale of the week's events, which began Monday. For the dance, the school cafeteria will be transformed into a dazzling dance club with flashing lights and loud music.