Five minutes before the day let out at Gunn High School on Oct. 20, there was no sign of life outside on Titan Field, just the sun beating down onto the football field and half-finished parade floats perched next to the stands. Then the bell rang, and suddenly the athletic field came to life as students poured onto the field with chicken wire, yellow tissue paper, large pieces of cardboard and other float-building materials in hand.
This wasn't just any Thursday afternoon. This was homecoming week and the day before the big football game during which the parade floats are revealed -- a longstanding tradition that showcases school spirit, creativity and fun.
The race was on for each class to put the finishing touches on its "universe"-themed floats, which even managed to incorporate Pokemon onto one of the displays.
"I heard they approved cardboard," said one student, while another asked, "Are those supposed to be plants?" At one point, a group of students broke into a limbo dance, proving this wasn't all work and no play.
Assistant Vice Principal Heather Wheeler said, "They get full on into it ... (They) construct it all themselves, with little outside help."
Across town at Palo Alto High School the next day, the level of excitement was similar as students prepared for a final rally and float competition before their homecoming game that night. Thunderous cheers and laughter from the crowd echoed well beyond Viking Stadium as the freshman float made its way in front of the stands while the PA system erupted into a flurry of pop and hip hop songs. Next, the sophomores' firefighter float made its way onto the field, followed by the junior class' Muhammad Ali-themed float that featured a full boxing ring. The seniors' float, which appeared last, used the old Mario Bros. video games as inspiration.
Back at Gunn High School, the homecoming game was beginning to turn into a blowout. Gunn's opponent, Homestead High School, was winning by four touchdowns at halftime, but even that couldn't stifle the excitement as those in the stands eagerly awaited the arrival of the floats and the homecoming court and the culmination of a week filled with camaraderie and school spirit.