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Homecoming matters

Sep 27, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

In our increasing rush to disconnect from each other, here's a chance to get together

Do giant high schools in huge cities have Homecoming Week the way our Fremont County schools do? For many of them, it must be a detached, almost artificial feeling.

Around here, we still do Homecoming right.

We all know that there are trade-offs to living in a smaller town, some of them in the big city's favor. But high school Homecoming is one of the annual joys in towns our size and smaller.

In towns with just one high school, Homecoming still is a community-wide celebration. Windows of local businesses still get painted (and thanks to the group that painted The Ranger's window for correcting a "typo" in the word "herd"). Elementary schools are dismissed for the Homecoming parade, and the streets are sealed off so the whole town must take notice.

Community members huddle around the bonfire, and the biggest concentration of humanity in the town's year sits together for the football game, to see the band, hear the cheers, clap as the convertibles inch in front of the grandstand, smile at the pretty girls wearing gowns and crowns, and root not just for the team or the school, but for the town.

There are many things pulling at the seams of community life these days, even in small towns. The instant contact made possible by the marvels of wireless communication is promoted as a way to connect, but it also can disconnect us. As we spend more time staring at electronic gadgets in our hands, we spend less time seeing the faces of our fellow human beings, less time hearing their voices, less time being in their presence, less time finding reason to assemble, less reason to think about the same things, more time to become absorbed by ourselves, not our community.

Because we can focus on ever-narrowing topics of fascination and avenues of contact, we lose common knowledge and shared interest -- shared because we live together.

That's why we're big, big fans of the stuff that requires our mutual attention and attendance. County fairs, local elections, parades, concerts, ball games, plays, street festivals and rodeos. They still have the power to attract our notice, and if we are to participate in them we must turn our tunnel-vision focus away from the tiny, beeping gadgets 6 inches from our noses.

We must look outward, see the faces and hear the voices of others, share the experience of what they are doing, and be reminded that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, even in a small town.

If that sounds like a heavy load to put on a bunch of high school kids and their weeklong schedule of fun and football, don't worry. Homecoming Week has been pulling this off in our communities for a long, long time. It works.

And if we're lucky -- and wise -- it can keep doing it for a long time to come. Let's see to it. Homecoming matters. Absolutely.

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