Orange and blue everything decked the streets of Mahomet during last week's homecoming parade. The parade start time moved from its typical Friday afternoon to Wednesday evening, but that didn't stop hundreds from flocking to the parade route's Division, Elm, Franklin, Main and State streets.
At the high school, dozens of students, youth sports athletes, area businesses and other Mahomet community members awaited the 5:30 p.m. start. Senior class president Allison Nofziger was one of those awaiting the parade kickoff as she put on the final touches to her float.
"I like the coral reefs and all of the little sea creatures and the fish," she said.
Nofziger said this year's homecoming theme was "Under the Sea." She couldn't help but take note of the similarities between this year's float and her sophomore year's parade display.
"Sophomore year we did a Disney theme for the class float and I picked 'The Little Mermaid' so this is pretty much the same thing," she joked.
Despite the friendly competition between the classes to produce the best float, Nofziger sees the parade as fun for the community and students alike.
"I'm really excited," she said. "I think we're doing some great things with student council this year and I hope in turn great things for the community."
Connor Thomason said the varsity football team's theme was all about "Finding Nemo."
"We've got a making waves sort of Nemo theme because we're all kind of chill just like the turtle in Nemo," he joked.
The senior wide receiver and strong safety says it's a "special feeling" seeing the whole community come out each Friday night as the Bulldogs take the field, but Thomason also enjoys seeing the community show up to the homecoming parade each year.
"It's incredible," he said. "The whole community comes out to support you and you can see all of the support they give for all of the programs and all of the clubs and everything throughout the community."
Thomason said his favorite homecoming memory occurred his seventh grade year when the parade included a National Guard vehicle.
"It was just awesome," he said.
But more than anything, looking around at the sea floats made Thomason realize a much bigger picture.
"Just seeing all of the little kids," he said. "You've got to realize that they look up to us and it's a special feeling to know that."
Emma Hensley was excited to be a part of this year's cheer squad float.
"It's such a fun experience," she said.
Hensley and the cheer crew decked out their float in orange and blue polka dots and big letters reading "M-S." On the back of the float were megaphones with the cheerleaders' names on it.
"It was just a lot of fun putting it together," she said. "We do a lot of team bonding activities just to keep improving as the season goes on. It's just a lot of fun and I think we're pretty close."
The homecoming parade was a first for the freshman, but the experience is one that meant a great deal to Hensley.
"Since I was little, I always enjoyed coming to the homecoming parade, and even though we changed it to Wednesday, I have been looking forward to it for a long time," she said. "And to be in it this year is really special."
Sarah Amjad helped decorate the combined boys' and girls' golf float. The teams adorned their float in keeping with the sea theme but added golf clubs.
"It's really fun," she said. "We're a small team so we're really close."
The senior most looked forward to the powderpuff football games following the homecoming parade.
"It can get very intense," she said. "It's playing a sport that's not serious, but it's still really fun to do."
Homecoming was bittersweet for Amjad with it being her final year participating. Her favorite memories over the years include the funny outfits people wore and the student section of Friday's football game.
"Homecoming's really fun because you may feel by yourself with your friends, but this week everyone is wearing similar stuff and everyone is excited about the same thing so it kind of connects everyone," she said.
This time next year, Amjad hopes to return to Mahomet to take in another homecoming football game.
For parade-goers such as Alison Dial of Mahomet and her two children, Carter (8) and Ava (2) Dial, the homecoming parade was "something fun to do" and a good way to "support our team."
Carter Dial has made it into the parade before in the Top Dawg float in support of the Dawg Walk, an M-S PTO fundraiser.
"I was a wonder Dawg which got me on a float," he said. "It was my first time being in the parade."
This year, he and his mother simply enjoyed partaking in the community's festivities."That's one reason we moved here (from Champaign)," Alison Dial said. "We wanted that small community and great schools."