Braden McDaniel bobbed his head to the beat of the Penns Valley Area High School Marching Band as they rounded out the last few groups at the homecoming parade Thursday night at the Grange Fairgrounds.
The 7-year-old then ran up to the Penns Valley Rams football team, who entered the grandstand area on a float and gave high-fives to some of the players.
The parade was the centerpiece of events leading up to Friday night’s football game against Huntingdon.
It was part of a spirit week celebration at the high school that included a different theme for each day. On Thursday, the theme was “Country Showdown” were students dressed as cowboys and cowgirls.
Friday will round out the week with blue and white day and a pep rally.
Grand Marshals Mike Flickinger and Keith Ripka led the parade, followed by public organizations that participated, and district sports clubs and programs.
Flickinger graduated from Penns Valley in 1974, and taught English at the high school until his retirement four years ago. Ripka graduated in 1986 and currently teaches physical education at the high school.
“It’s just an honor because the kids voted for us this year,” Ripka said.
Shelly Weaver, an assistant at the district and parade coordinator, said that each year the district looks to honor grand marshals who positively represent the Penns Valley community.
The parade was started seven years ago as a way to get the school district to be more community involved, Weaver added.
It costs about $1,000 to run and attracts about 2,000 people, Weaver said.
The women’s volleyball team decorated their float with the theme “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” in honor of the Charlie Daniels Band song from 1979.
The group of girls dressed in country apparel with devil horns attached to their heads, and choreographed a dance to the song. The volleyball team is two-time float winners at the parade.
“It was a lot of hard work to make the float and get everything ready,” said senior Kayla Bracken.
She added that volleyball practice was canceled Thursday so they could put the finishing touched on the float with the help from some of the team moms. Their float was towed by a John Deere tractor donated by a grandfather of one of the players.
But perhaps the loudest cheers during the parade were for the homecoming queen contestants.
When Olivia Jefferies moved to the Penns Valley area from Virginia last year, it was a smooth transition, she said.
This year, the senior is in the running for homecoming queen.
On Thursday night, she was escorted by boyfriend Zach Auker in a yellow Honda S2000 convertible at the parade.
“It’s been a really welcoming group of people,” Jefferies, 17, said. “I think more than anything I’m going to miss friends when it’s all over, so I need to savor those memories.”
She said she’s in a pool of girls who are all friends and supportive of each other.
They also include Samantha Bastress, Lucie Case, Valerie Kubalak, Alyssa Limbaugh, Makayla Luse, Kylie Orndorf and Cheyenne Swartz.