Wilton Homecoming: Making a community event

The idea of homecoming — the tradition of welcoming back alumni to their alma mater in a festival-like atmosphere — has existed since the late 1800s. In Wilton, homecoming will take place this Saturday at Fujitani Field when the Warriors welcome the Branford High School Hornets.

There is no clear answer as to who hosted the first homecoming. Baylor University in Texas has made its own claim, hosting a reunion in 1909. The University of Missouri hosted its bitter rivals, Kansas, in 1911. To promote the game, Mizzou athletic director Chester Brewer invited alumni and former residents to “come home.”

The football game ended in a 3-3 tie, but the celebration included a bonfire, pep rally, a parade, and a banquet.

In many ways, that is what homecoming is still like.

The party began this week at Wilton High School, as students embraced Spirit Week with themes such as class color day and toga day, although only the seniors may participate.

A pep rally will be held on Friday.

On Saturday afternoon at 1:30, the action includes a carnival in the dust bowl, which is the area just below Fujitani Field. Approximately 20 Wilton High School clubs will be in attendance hosting events such as bocce from the International Club, pie in the face by Peervention, hand painting by Open Art, and face painting by Operation Smile.

All events are free, and all ages are welcome.

Passing by the carnival starting around 2 will be the parade, which will feature the high school and district administration and the Homecoming Court in Jeeps, banners made by class student governments, and the award-winning Warrior Marching Band.

Wilton and Branford will kick off in the main event, the varsity football game, at 2:30. The Warriors come into the game at 1-1, having lost to perennial powerhouse Staples, 14-7, last Friday.

Warriors fans are requested to wear white in honor of a whiteout, which serves as a show of unity for the team, with the intention of creating an intimidating atmosphere. Hockey’s Winnipeg Jets initially used the concept to combat a similar effort by the Calgary Flames in 1987.

The traditional homecoming dance is Saturday night at 8.

“I’m looking forward to engaging in homecoming one last time,” said Alex Bendix, Wilton High School student government president. “It’s nice to see how things are all developing.”

Alex explained that, while face writing had been big in previous years, a concern over possible hazing of young students resulted in the administration putting and end to it.

“Most of it was supposed to be in good fun,” he said.

The school traditionally holds blue-white day on Friday, in preparation for the pep rally, but this year, gold will be added to the mix as a nod to student philanthropy. Among their efforts will be to collect money for those affected by the recent flooding in Colorado.

Alex said excitement is palpable at Wilton High School, especially for the dance.

“We have a DJ who is very close to our age, and who is a Wilton graduate,” he said. “He knows what our musical taste is. He’s very successful and has done a lot of shows.”

As for the original reason for homecoming — the return of alumni and residents — Alex expects to see some familiar faces to Wilton.

“I think a few years they had the homecoming game on Friday, and alumni couldn’t make it,” he said. “They made sure to move it back to Saturday. We usually see a lot of alumni.”

In other towns, homecoming is a big day, not only for students and schools but for the community. Alex said his student government, and other students, are doing their part to make sure that homecoming isn’t only about Wilton High School, but about the town.

“It always seemed to be really big,” he said. “It hasn’t already been a community event. The carnival makes it a family-friendly, community event. We have a lot of participation.”

The Warriors hope to improve to 2-1 with a win over Branford in the football game. The Hornets are 0-2, with losses of 44-19 to Woodland, and 48-7 to Notre Dame of West Haven.