POULSBO — If you want to know about homecoming, you have to go right to the source.
So Friday night, a few minutes before the floats were about to roll onto the North Kitsap High School track, I cornered The Viking. Not just any Viking, but The Viking. The original. The horn-headed, arm-waving mascot who pumps up the crowd before every game.
The first thing I learned is that, among Vikings, grog is apparently as passe as raiding parties and parapets. This Viking was enjoying a nice bottled water.
I got out my notebook.
“Viking, why is homecoming so important?” I asked.
The Viking thought about it for a moment.
“It’s because they’re coming home,” he said, referring to the hundreds of NKHS grads who filled the stands that night. “It’s just a big deal. We have to celebrate something.”
The crowd was indeed big, filling the stands and lining the chain link fence that surrounds the field.
“How is this crowd different from others?” I asked.
The Viking was enthused.
“They’re better than other nights,” he said. “They’re yelling. They’re making noise. It’s great.”
Later, after the game had ended, some of the cheerleaders who had kept the crowd cheering throughout the Vikings’ loss agreed.
“It’s a time when everyone comes out and gets pumped up,” said Leah Rank.
Fellow cheerleader Jacque Quinen agreed.
“No matter what group you’re in — grungers, preppie kids, jocks — you all come together tonight.”
Nicole Nichols said, “It’s just a time to show how much school spirit we have. The whole school works together and shows its spirit.”
That spirit was obvious Friday night, as many in the crowd wore purple.
The alumni wore purple ribbons that marked them as such. Some students dabbed “NK” on their faces in purple marker; others painted their entire face.
That shared spirit didn’t prevent competition, as each class entered a float for a spirit-point competition.
The sophomores “Cast Away,” featured sand, a moon and stars; the juniors’ pirate ship featured a smiling, waving skeleton; and the seniors’ Swiss Family Robinson was a truck converted into a beach and wooden hut — along with a 90s touch, a booming sound system.
The seniors won the competition (believing the seniors won’t win the float contest is kind of like believing the Harlem Globetrotters are due for a loss). Marie Moore, the homecoming queen, wore sunglasses as a car drove her around the track. And cheerleader Nichols said it all:
“This is the best crowd we’ve ever had,” she said.