Is it thunder? A stampede?
No. It’s Homecoming at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, California.
Every October, the earthshaking drumroll and screams of energy echo around the school’s suburban neighborhood. As the battle for the homecoming trophy takes to the school, students and staff gather to celebrate the school’s most beloved tradition, a week-long event that captures participants’ heart and encapsulates organizers’ love for it.
Homecoming is not an uncommon event: Football games are played and Homecoming royalty are named across U.S. high schools. However, Lynbrook’s yearly event hits another level, as six months of tireless preparation — from waking up to dance as the sun rises to staying up all night to make cardboard decoration — accumulates to a 20-minute performance, originally created decades ago to draw students to attend the football game, but which has now become the cornerstone of school spirit.
“Any other school’s Homecoming is not nearly as big,” incoming senior class vice president Ria Phelan said. “Homecoming dances are usually what other schools are focusing on.”
But at Lynbrook, the dances aren’t the best part, Phelan explained.
“It is the performances. I have never seen a school with a bigger performance than ours,” she said.
Of the school’s 1,800 students, around one quarter plans the event, and nearly all students attend the performance. It is so significant that there is a special schedule for the week, with a dedicated time for the performance and an extended lunch break. Many teachers even go as far to not assign homework, allowing students to celebrate the week and focus on last minute preparations for — or panicking over — dances, decorations, skits and more. However, to pull off the massive event, classes start preparation at the beginning of summer.
A key aspect of Lynbrook’s Homecoming are the three dance performances: girls’ dance, boys’ dance and coed dance. Drilling in choreography multiple times a week, the dances subject neighbors to choreographers’ screams all through summer, all morning before school starts, all afternoon after school ends.
“I like boys’ dance,” incoming senior class president Shailesh Senthil Kumar said. “It’s very fun. You get to dance and chill with a lot of friends. It’s the people that make it so special.”
Of course, the skit performance including the dances cannot exclude the skit itself! With competitive auditions, skit “heads” select the most skilled performers and voice actors to represent the class in the iconic event. Similar to dances, the skit team practices weekly. Actors brush up on acting skills, mouthing their words while voice actors speak through microphones in the actual performance.
Behind the stage are the largest bedsheets in the world, hand-painted backdrops over 11 feet tall and 90 feet wide that tower over the school quad and welcome the students as they step onto campus, showcasing student creativity and artistic mastery.
The last are planter decorations, human-sized cardboard creations. From handmade cars to literal bars, the decorations sit on top of elevated planter boxes at the center of the school and set the background for interactive and aesthetic Instagram posts.
All the projects and performances lead up to Homecoming week. Each morning starts with performers gathering as early as 4 a.m. for their caffeine-filled final rehearsals and gauntlets where students entering school dash through a boulevard of hoarse-screaming dancers and skit actors.
Chattering and screaming, filming and posting, chanting and laughing are all in one of Homecoming. Of course, the thousands in the jam-packed quad do not miss a beat as dancers perform to the latest Post Mallone or Ariana Grande song during the skit. The week concludes, like many Homecomings, with the Homecoming football game, dance and royalty, winner announcements; however, memories throughout the week, the months before are what stick to the hearts of all students.
As summer preparations for 2021’s Homecoming ramp up, students are hyped for the event’s return after a year of COVID-19. Traditional activities like park kick-offs and decoration meetings are back, and they are especially sweet for rising seniors who have found a new appreciation for their high school journey.
“Lynbrook Homecoming is the best thing in the world,” Phelan said. “It is six months of grueling torture, but it is also fun and hard work put on by our class.” When asked about the other classes, Phelan had a short message: “No, they don’t matter. It is all about us!”