Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Homecoming's helping hands
Downtown merchants lend support to annual parades.
"Go Demons" was painted on a window of The Dance Place, and similar messages would soon decorate other downtown windows. These were the first signs most people saw of last week's Christiansburg High School homecoming parade, an affair that involved not just the school but the whole downtown.
Between Monday and Wednesday last week, 104 blue and gold balloons were tied to those 52 meters. A dozen businesses decorated their storefront windows. By 6 p.m. Wednesday, the streets were lined with people.
The parade came and went in 15 minutes.
Connie Reed Stoner was a spectator last week, but 30 years ago she was one of the teenage girls sitting on the back of a convertible and waving to the downtown crowd. She was part of the homecoming court and parade all four years of high school until she graduated in 1978.
Now her son Charlie Stoner is a Christiansburg freshman, and Connie Stoner's memories have floated back to the surface.
When she was in high school, she helped make her class floats in the warehouse of her father's business, Reed Lumber. Now she owns the business, and her son helped make his class float in the same warehouse.
"It was so deja vu," she said. "And so much fun."
The freshman class float, featuring goal posts made from PVC pipe that Reed Lumber donated, won first place for best float. Reed Lumber also lent a flatbed truck to haul the float and supplies to make it.
Second place went to the varsity cheerleaders, who usually plan the parade, and third place was awarded to the senior class.
In recent years, the parade has been held on a Friday afternoon. Not as many people could take off during the workday, and the football team was busy readying for that night's game, this year's organizers said.
The Parent Teacher Student Association took over planning the parade this year. The time was moved to 6 p.m. and the day moved to Wednesday so the football team could be a part of the festivities, too.
"We want to make memories for the kids," said association vice president Connie Clark.
She and association president Rene Cox did the majority of the planning as well as the ribbon-tying and balloon-inflating. Clark's 14-year-old daughter, Sara, a freshman cheerleader, was also in the parade as was Clark's 10-year-old daughter, Erin, a manager of the volleyball team.
"Aren't we fortunate we have a Main Street in a town that lets us decorate the meters and have a parade? This is small-town America," Clark said.
The downtown Macado's, where Clark's husband is manager, donated balloons and helium and the blue and gold Mardi Gras beads that students tossed to spectators.
Cox and Clark organized the parade entries, from the Christiansburg Fire Department trucks to floats for drama and chorus. All the football teams, including Christiansburg Middle School eighth-graders, junior varsity and varsity members, were part of the parade. Even the Demon mascot rode down Main Street in a golf cart.
The women also visited downtown businesses a few weeks ago to ask them to decorate their windows in the school's colors. The News Messenger received a plaque, donated by New River Engraving, for best display.
Downtown businessowner Jamie Bond is a 1984 Christiansburg graduate and operates Old Town Barber Hair Salon on Main Street. Her son Wesley is the junior varsity quarterback at Christiansburg and was in the parade, too. Jamie Bond also organized last weekend's Class of 1984 reunion.
"It makes you think and remember all the fun times in high school. I loved high school. This makes me feel young again," she said.
She watched the parade from the sidewalk in front of her salon, calling and waving to Wesley as the truck bed full of teen testosterone passed by. Her storefront window was draped in blue and gold ribbon streamers. A three-foot high "CHS" was cut from cardboard and painted gold. A football helmet sat on the window ledge.
Bond was glad to see the few hundred Christiansburg residents who came to watch the parade.
"Downtown's just kind of dying and people need to get revived," she said. "This gets more people downtown."
A few of Bond's classmates joined her to watch their children in the parade. Dale Buchner, a 1984 Christiansburg graduate, has three sons on the wrestling team. He said he was glad about the time change.
"I don't think you'd see this many people if it was earlier. It gives people a chance to get home from work," he said.
Parade organizers Cox and Clark were already talking about the fireworks and bonfire they'd like to include in next year's event. The rest of the crowd, though, was focused on Saturday's homecoming football game, for which the parade was supposed to rally the fans.
It worked. The Demons beat the Lord Botetourt High School Cavaliers 40 to 25.