CENTRE HALL — A Miles Township fire engine siren kicked off the Penns Valley Area homecoming parade Thursday night, and Boy Scouts and the grand marshals were the first to lap the Grange Fairgrounds to the grandstand.
They were followed by a line of cars that carried the school district’s queen hopefuls and their escorts.
Students, faculty and staff, and community members teamed up to make floats, and those riding on them were clad in headbands, leather coats and other rock-n-roll attire, and armed with guitars in hand.
The parade lasted about 45 minutes and ended with a pep rally that honored the Penns Valley Area School District sports teams. A Bon Jovi-themed musical act was also a part of the pep rally as the marching band helped amp up the crowd.
The homecoming theme this year was “rock-n-roll.”
Seniors were able to vote on both the homecoming theme and for two grand marshals, said Shelly Weaver, Penns Valley Area High School executive assistant in the superintendent’s office and organizer on the committee that helps run the parade.
Grand marshals this year included Penns Valley class of 1963 graduate Donald Hosterman and class of 1993 graduate Robert Sauerwein. Both men are part of the athletic director’s office.
Weaver said this is the seventh year a homecoming parade has been celebrated, and that the entire Penns Valley community helped kick off the event. She added that the school district’s goal was to involve all 1,500 students.
“It’s the best way to show their small town Penns Valley pride,” Weaver said. “The kids are excited, and we get a couple thousand people out to support us.”
Seventh grader Garrett Lucas, 12, of Penns Valley Intermediate School, was at the head of his float as he gave the crowd his Elvis lip and rocked out to Elvis classics like “Jailhouse Rock,” “Burning Love” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”
He said he was the mastermind behind the Elvis-themed float, along with about a dozen of his classmates who rocked out with him and helped make cardboard albums for the side of the float.
On another float created by the Penns Valley Intermediate School, an Elvis impersonator sang hits for the crowd.
Other junior and senior high school members from the majorettes and band front with the marching band said they were happy to be a kind of spirit squad to show their Ram pride.
“It shows a lot of pride and gives you self-confidence to go out there and represent your school and community,” said band front member Kendall Bartley, 15, who is also a captain with the club. “You work with a great group of people in the same situation and great leaders who help prepare you for this.”
For the high school, this was all part of what they call spirit week, which leads up to their homecoming football game at 7 p.m. Friday against Philipsburg-Osceola Area High School and a homecoming dance at 7 p.m. Saturday, during which the senior queen will be named.
Queen contestants said that it is a bittersweet moment this year because it’s their last year to be a part of the parade.
“It’s just important because it’s your last year to share this moment with your friends and have fun,” said Haley Sasserman, 16. “I’ve never been in the parade before, so I’m just taking it all in.”
“You kind of go out here have a good time and in the end hope you’re being a role model to some of the younger kids,” fellow senior Nicole Harbaugh, 17, added.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648.