Pizza, paint and papier-mâchè ruled the day last weekend as Herndon high-school students hurried to finish their class floats for this Saturday's homecoming parade.
"We have about 50 entries. Everything from the high school clubs and the middle school and elementary schools to Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops and antique cars," said Herndon High's assistant principal John Werner. "We'll have about 2,000 people in it."
The parade is anticipated to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Elden Street, at Sterling Road, then make its way to Lynn Street where the entrants will be judged. This year's parade theme is "Pride: Countries of the World."
THE PROCESS OF PREPARING for homecoming began last year when the float themes — China, Egypt, Jamaica and United States — were chosen. Each grade level, beginning with the seniors, got to select a country. And by the second week of this year, each class was hard at work developing the theme into a 3-D, mobile interpretation of its country.
The float builders will spend Friday night at the houses where the floats are being stored and guard them from spies. The actual look of the floats are kept secret until the day of the parade.
"The Lombardozzis have a fire hose, so we'll make sure no one gets close to the float," said SGA secretary Jessica Mosie, of the seniors' float.
Damaging another class's float results in a disqualification from the pageant, especially after an egging incident last year the night before the parade.
All the supplies are purchased with money raised by each class and on occasion excess materials are donated to another class's cause.
"SINCE WE SELECTED Egypt, we looked for artistic people," Moise said of the volunteers, who have gathered each weekend at the Lombardozzi household to create the elements of the senior float.
After four years, the senior class has the most experience with float construction, but that does not guarantee success.
"It's all trial and error," said senior Stuart Grimes. "This is the second time we're making this tree."
Another element of the float was destroyed during Hurricane Isabel, but has been recreated to be even better than before.
The seniors have also learned to save materials from the year before, which could possibly be reused, said Moise.
THE ACTUAL BUILDING of the floats is pretty easy going. The volunteers can come and go as they choose, but are expected to contribute to the project.
"Everyone really does have to work," Grimes said.
Over at the Hill home, the juniors are busy creating a Jamaican-themed float out of wood, paint, paper, grass skirts and cardboard tubes.
"We picked Jamaica because we thought it would be a cool float with lots of colors," said junior class secretary Jessie Hill.
And so is the driveway, which Linda Hill, Jessie's mom, said will be resealed once homecoming is over.
On the other hand, the sophomores took over a portion of the stem-pipe driveway where the Tomlinsons live, their U.S.A.-themed float is in separate pieces, matching their "Sea to Shining Sea" idea.
"We knew we wanted to do something with 9/11, a beach scene and mountains," said Mollie Stewart, the class vice president. "It's still a learning process."
The freshmen, by contrast, spent a good part of Saturday working on costumes for their China-themed float. The girls gathered at the Churchwell home to cut, pin and sew; and do some last-minute construction work on the float. The boys decided to meet somewhere else to work on their costumes.
"It's been fun. It's like a party everyday," said freshman Jackie Churchwell, of her first float making experience. And, showing a lot of confidence, she anticipated the float to be finished the following day.