LAMBERTON – “John! John!” I was standing along Main Street in this southwestern Minnesota town early on this Friday afternoon, jotting something in my notebook, when I heard my name being called. “John! John!”
As I looked up, two little candy suckers were landing at my feet, tossed from a Homecoming parade float by Red Rock Central senior Katie Halter. I had met Katie earlier in the day when I spoke to a couple of classes at the home of the Falcons. Athletic director Bryce Pack, who had heard me talk about the MSHSL Student Sports Information directors program at a meeting in Marshall recently, invited me to visit with the students.
I was already planning to be in the area for a football game in Minneota (I’m sitting inside a Culver’s in Marshall as I write this; kickoff in Minneota is a few hours away) and I had a blast in Lamberton. Bryce saw me parking my car outside the school and waved at me from the door. He bought me lunch at the American Legion, and the lasagne special with a Diet Coke was stupendous.
One thought kept running through my head during my time in Lamberton: I hope all these wonderful, friendly people know how lucky they are to live in a town like this. I’m the first to admit that I love small towns, having grown up in a village very much like Lamberton. But being there on Homecoming, with all the excitement and fun, was very special.
Since it was Homecoming, the students, teachers and staff were all dressed in the school colors of black, red and silver. Some had their faces painted and wackiness prevailed … in a good way. I spoke with students about the Student SID program, showed them examples of the program from other schools via mshsl.org and talked a lot about writing, reporting, interviewing and other facets of journalism.
After lunch, the real fun began. Everybody got out of school in time for the 1 p.m. parade, which was a delight. Elementary students sat on the curbs and waited for their high school heroes to throw candy. Parents, grandparents and other assorted grownups sat in lawn chairs or on lawns. The town’s police officer led the parade in his squad car with lights flashing, and the parade ended with a local fire and rescue vehicle and an ambulance. In between were vehicles carrying the Homecoming royalty, the marching band, pickups pulling flat-bed trailers carrying various groups of students, and a couple of fire trucks. The football players piled onto a trailer of hay bales that was pulled by coach Isaac Jenniges in his truck; the team had great fun pelting their teachers with candy fastballs along the parade route.
It took exactly 12 minutes for the entire parade to pass by where I was standing, and it was one of the greatest 12-minute periods of my life.
My favorite float was a graveyard on wheels, with a pile of dirt and a large headstone that said “Greyhounds RIP” (Friday night’s opponent was the New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds).
Then came powder-puff football at the football field, which also serves as the baseball outfield. The senior girls played the freshmen, coming away with a resounding victory … just as a couple of senior girls had promised me earlier. Then the junior girls played the sophomores and on the fun went. The rest of the junior high and high school students sat in the home grandstand and the elementary kids sat across the field on the visitors bleachers. (Great cheer: “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y! That’s the fifth-grade battle cry!”)
Football players filled the roles of referees, chain gang members and public-address announcers. No greater fun have I ever witnessed.
I had to depart before the powder puff games were finished, but Pack sent me out in style as we stood next to the concession stand: “Hey John, how about a Diet Coke for the road?”
--To see a photo gallery from Red Rock Central, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 43
*Miles John has driven: 3,439
--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter at twitter.com/mshsljohn