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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Around Town: Float Building 2019

Unless you just moved to Wyoming this month, you’re aware of Wyoming’s five-minute Homecoming parade (which undoubtedly is a highlight of the fall for many participants and spectators – Wyoming Living included!). But, many community members are not aware of the intensity of the Homecoming float building WEEK – which is 28 hours and 55 minutes longer than the parade. The parade is memorable, but the week celebrates process over product. Those who have attended Wyoming High School and those who have had students at Wyoming High School whole heartedly understand why so many students love these 29 hours every single year. 

These hard-working float builders from the senior class were the last ones standing – posing for a photo with Moana at the 11 o’clock hour at the Osha’s home. 
The Prep:  How It Works
Months before Homecoming week, the groundwork is being laid for the memorable week:  the athletic department and administration choose a date (with a home game that is easy to win); Parent Advisory Council (PAC) representatives for each class choose a float building location at a home in the village (family must have a child in the grade and have driveway space for the project – thanks to Knapps, Van Fossens, Fitzpatricks, and Oshas for hosting this year); AND Wyoming High School Student Council members choose a theme for the floats (this year was Disney Princesses, which followed last year’s male dominated Superhero theme). Then the PAC reps assist the student council members in creating a list of materials and supplies based on the student design, re-using as much as possible from one year to the next. There is a small budget for the project provided by the school, but the bulk of the materials come from parent donations. PAC reps also organize food donations for each of the four float building homes, so no student leaves the week hungry. Wyoming has a tradition of the senior class handing down their materials to the incoming freshman class, so the hefty float bases are re-used every year.  

The junior class was busy at the Fitzpatrick home. Photo by Natalie Strom.
The Week Of…
Once the week arrives, the rules are laid out, and there is a strict policy on the hours students can work on the float: 3:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and until 11:00 p.m. on Thursday, totaling 29 hours - or, over the course of four years, 116 hours of constructing with pomp (tissue paper), chicken wire, and wood. Some students attend every possible hour, and others only pop in for the last hour on Thursday to see the results of the class’ hard work. Every student brings something different to the experience as every student has different talents – which is the beautiful part of the process because every student has a place in this class team-building week. Over the course of four years, the class develops a rhythm. By senior year, everyone knows which student is best at construction and who is the best artist – they know who can be relied on for motivating a large group of students and who is the hard worker that can fold pieces of pomp for hours without complaint. For many students, it is their favorite week of the year. 

These juniors were hard at work on the Jasmine/Aladdin float. Photo by Natalie Strom.
The Parent Chaperone
Parents chaperone every hour of the float building week, insuring no child uses a power tool without proper training (thanks to parents supervising in that capacity as you have undoubtedly saved a few fingers) and no damage occurs at the home (spray adhesive is the host family’s worst nightmare). But parents are not allowed to help beyond the supervisory role (unless of course you count donating food or supplies, then parents are encouraged!). The perk of volunteering as a chaperone is to observe the process – students are figuring it out – how to come together as a team, how to agree to disagree, how to accept imperfections and move on. If you chaperone just once every year, you can observe a class develop a rhythm freshman year, fine-tune the process as sophomores and juniors, and then execute it perfectly senior year, where at the 11 o’clock hour, after four years (or 116 hours), there are tears shed and hugs shared that the end is actually here.  

Griffin, Alexander, and Seth installed the city scape of Agrabah along the side of the junior Disney Jasmine float. Photo by Natalie Strom.
The Judging
There is a rubric for the float judging (this is not a joke! we are Wyoming after all, and we need a proper grading method). One of the most important factors on the rubric this year was “movement”, hence students in every grade had students INSIDE the float creating a rocking boat, an exploding volcano, a moving carpet, a mermaid’s tail, a snowman chase scene – the students are creative! Students can ad lib the design during the week only so much, as designs have been approved and supplies have been purchased, teaching the students the importance of proper planning. The results are announced at half time of the game, and this year, the seniors won with their Moana float.  

The freshman class always has a big learning curve since float building is not taught in middle school, but this gang dedicated their week to learning construction techniques, and the Frozen Elsa float landed them with the coveted third place finish. 
Until Next Year
To the nay-sayers, yep, float building can be indulgent and over the top. And too many people get wrapped up in the importance of winning the contest (we over emphasize winning in everything!). Most alumni don’t recall what place they got in a given year or even what their float looked like – but they do remember the hours of bonding with their classmates for the good of a common goal. The life skills the week creates - teamwork, hard work, dedication, support for your classmates – are blended with an old-fashioned, small-town, week of fun. It’s a week where barriers between student cliques are broken down; where artists and future engineers are the heroes; where differences are forgotten, and abilities are celebrated. Thanks, Wyoming, for another great Homecoming week!

These freshman girls had a great time learning how to “pomp” the chicken wire – while hanging out with their classmates at the Knapp home.

The challenge of constructing Ariel’s mermaid tail was given to these smart sophomores. 

Sophomores Elizabeth,   , and Grace were hard at work at Van Fossens.

Many classes fold the pieces of tissue paper pomp to create a more refined look – but the folding does take time! Thankfully Olivia, Kennedy, Janick, and Sebastian were skilled at it.

These senior girls were ready for the photo op posing with the float for the last evening of high school float building. 

It was all-hands-on Moana to make sure the carefully constructed body was added to the float without injury.

The Frozen snow monster was built by the freshman who quickly learned that “pomping” is hard work. 

These senior girls were teary eyed in a group hug at the end of Thursday night knowing this was the end of four years of float building.

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