Newberry savors its small-town parade

Members of the Spanish Club pass during Newberry High School's annual homecoming parade, a small-town tradition that leads football players, cheerleaders, homecoming queens, and various academic clubs down Newberry Road in Newberry on Friday.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 7:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 4, 2013 at 7:42 p.m.

This afternoon, Newberry High School students rode down Southwest 15th Avenue decked in blue and gold, sitting in convertibles, Jeeps or the back of a friend's truck, waving to the crowd gathered for the school's annual homecoming parade.

NHS is the only school in Alachua County that has a homecoming parade, according to the school's student government sponsor, Jordan Marlowe.

Marlowe, 37, has taught English and history at the school since 2006. He is a Newberry High alumnus, having graduated in 1996, the fourth generation in his family to do so.

He said because Newberry is still a small town, the high school can handle such a parade. Other schools face more liability issues, so they choose to not put on what many people remember historically as a major tradition for high schools.

Student body president Kyla Dalton, 17, said her school is related to the community of Newberry much like the University of Florida is related to Gainesville. Panther pride is everywhere, she said.

"They're really gung ho about it," Dalton said. Painted on her face in gold and blue was the number 14 — the year of her graduating class.

Signaling the beginning of the parade, two sheriff's officials cleared the street for the NHS marching band, which came behind them. Following the ban were cars carrying the club sweethearts, who waved like royalty to the crowd lining the street.

Kelly Day, 44, brought her children to see the parade. She has one child in elementary school and one in middle school who she said will attend Newberry High one day.

The community coming out to see the parade every year is what makes it special, she said.

The parade's theme this year was "superheroes." So each class — freshman, sophomore, junior and senior — chose different superheroes to pay tribute to. Spider-Man, the Hulk, Captain America and Iron Man all made an appearance.

Kids from Newberry Elementary ran into the school's front-yard playground to watch the parade go by. They cheered for the superheroes and shouted their names.

Some students walked alongside the parade and passed out candy. The elementary children shouted for them to toss candy over the fence.

An 18-wheeler with a flatbed full of hay carried the football team, who had donned their game jerseys.

One group of students rode in a boat being pulled by a minivan. Another young woman rode on a John Deere tractor. The cheerleaders followed shortly behind the Newberry Fire Department truck, clapping and cheering, "N, N, H, H, S, S."

Parade floats made by school clubs, including the National Honor Society, the Spanish Club and Psychology Club, were judged by three women from the community. The winners were announced later tonight at the Panthers' homecoming game against Williston.

Heather Smith, Barbara Hendricks and Linda Woodcock said they judged the floats on relevance to the theme, creativity, neatness and the how the name of the group was displayed.

Smith has a daughter who goes to NHS and a son in middle school. Her daughter is the third generation of their family to go to Newberry High.

Smith and her husband both graduated from NHS, and in fact they coordinated the parade back in 1989.

"It's a part of the fabric of our community," she said.

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