Some Boulder County high schools celebrate fall in ways straight out of a movie and some are creating new traditions. Whether the school has 800 students or 20, Boulder County high schools have big plans to welcome students and the community back for another school year.
Saint Vrain Valley School District’s Sunrise Stampede
Saint Vrain Valley School District’s Sunrise Stampede is a district-wide race, with proceeds donated to grants for special education teachers in the district. Organized by the St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation, SVVSD special education teachers from preschool up to high school can apply for tools through the grant when they need extra support in their classrooms.
The race is one of many initiatives the St. Vrain Valley Schools Education Foundation supports, but is “a special way to kick off the school year,” according to the foundation’s community liaison Michelle Phelan.
The Foundation works with schools in the district and with the SVVSD athletic departments. The race is a professionally timed event, giving high school cross country teams an opportunity to use it as a time trial.
The event is sponsored by businesses, churches, civic organizations, hospitals, family foundations and banks. Most sponsors are local or local affiliates. Centura Longmont United Hospital paid for 200 students to run free.
Michelle Steffen’s son is in the special education program at SVVSD. Her son has Down Syndrome, and she was happy to see the Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association represented at last year’s race, among other fun expo booths with games and activities for kids.
“It’s a chance to support special education,” Steffen said. “It is also a way to be inclusive of the students with disabilities because they’ve got a 5k and a one-mile run, and everybody can participate.”
Steffen has two high school SVVSD students who enjoy attending the race as well. Steffen received a voucher from the district for her son to participate in the one-mile race for free.
“I’m really big on things being inclusive for all people,” Steffen said. “I like this event because I feel like it really is inclusive. With a one-mile, you can run it, you can walk it, you can stroll it, you can have a wheelchair. It’s however you can do it, you’re included. I really like that part of this event.”
Centaurus High School’s Homecoming traditions
Centaurus High School in Lafayette has traditional Homecoming events including a powder puff football game, float parade, and Homecoming football game and dance.
“Homecoming week is huge for Centaurus,” said principal Daniel Ryan. “We have a lot of strong history and school culture that goes on.”
Many alumni come back from even 25 years back to enjoy the “most highly attended sporting event of the entire year,” as Ryan describes it.
“The Homecoming events mean different things to different students. For freshmen, it may be a right of passage, to seniors it has even more meaning as they look back on their time in high school,” Ryan said.
He went on to say, “At our school I feel like [homecoming] is the continuity of what Centaurus High School is, especially during the COVID era when we lost some things.We found out that kids really look forward to those things.”
Temple Grandin School Shuffle
Students at the Temple Grandin School in Boulder are neurodiverse. Most students are on the autism spectrum and some have a similar learning profile or have similar learning challenges.
One welcome-back event is the yearly fundraiser 5k called the Shuffle. The school puts on fall events like the Shuffle and an orientation day to get to know the students and their families more fully, said director of community relations Lisa Baba.
“They’ve been in schools before where they haven’t felt understood,” Baba said. “They may have even been bullied. We really want our students to feel cared for and understood. We want our parents to know that they’re a welcome part of our community, and that we care about them and understand them too because their students have had challenges. Parents have had challenges. It’s not easy to watch your student go through hard times. We really want our families to know that they’re cared for and understood too and that they’re a part of the process, part of the community.”
The Shuffle not only welcomes the students and families but raises money for the school.
Last year’s theme was time traveling, with participants dressing up from characters from the past or in futuristic costumes.
Each student has a team of family and community members who can contribute to the fundraiser, which is open to the public.
The race reflects some of the school’s core values of understanding and caring. The school puts on events like the Shuffle at the beginning of the school year to show the students’ families that they care about getting to know and understand the students both in school and out of school.
Broomfield High School’s Homecoming traditions
Broomfield High School holds one of the few off-site homecoming dances in the district. This year the homecoming dance will be held at Empower Field.
The upper and lower classes team together during Homecoming week for friendly competition. In years past, the freshman and juniors teamed up together and the sophomore and senior classes teamed up against them.
“It builds comradery among the classes because we love competition,” said principal Ginger Ramsey.
In keeping with this sense of comradery, points are taken off if the competition becomes unsportsmanlike.
The Homecoming week at Broomfield High includes a tailgate put on by the community and Broomfield Boosters, a nonprofit organization founded to provide support for Broomfield High School. Dress-up days and the Broomfield High’s version of a powder puff game, called Llabtoof—football backwards are also a big part of the Homecoming week.
Tara Performing Arts High School’s Michaelmas Fall Festival
Tara Performing Arts High School in North Boulder welcomes fall with a festival celebrating courage.
During September, you’ll find the student body of approximately 50 students preparing the campus for classes and rehearsing for the Michaelmas Fall Festival, said the school’s co-director Betsy Barricklow. Michaelmas first began as a harvest festival during the Middle Ages.
“You’ll see students and staff weeding the volleyball court, painting sheds, planting gardens, sanding and refinishing wooden desks and arranging classrooms,” Barricklow said. “You’ll hear the ninth grade learning a traditional Morris sword dance, the tenth grade reciting and choreographing their original poetry, the eleventh grade creating devised theater scripts from interviews they conducted, and the twelfth-grade rehearsing scenes for a play. At the end of the day, the air is filled with choral music as students practice African freedom songs and the other traditional music of our Michaelmas Festival.”
“Fall is a time of melding the practical and the cultural,” Barricklow said. “Everyone is in high spirits, working hard and preparing for whatever lies ahead.”
“We cultivate courage and celebrate the beginning of another year filled with challenging academics, dramatic performances, travel to urban and wilderness areas and experiential education,” Barricklow said.
Tara’s Michaelmas Fall Festival this year takes place on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 5 p.m. and is open to the public.
Monarch High School Homecoming traditions
Homecoming week at Louisville’s Monarch High School presents an opportunity for the community to heal after the Marshall Fire.
“What we experienced last year as a result of the Marshall fire, I think events such as this carry and hold a much more significant impact for an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate a long-standing historical tradition that adults and grandparents all remember,” said principal Neil Anderson.
Preceding the dance are dress-up days, spirit days, an assembly and a football game, the dance is held outside at the school. Student council and the Monarch High Booster Club, a non-profit organization supporting student activities, host a tailgate with grilled food.
“Homecoming week builds an incredible amount of energy,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of positivity that comes through that week. I think it carries over into the rest of the other events at school.”
Desiderata School’s Soup Lunch
The Desiderata School in Longmont is a modern take on a one-room schoolhouse. With 20 students total, the microschool doesn’t have a traditional homecoming game or dance.
Before Halloween, the school hosts a soup lunch. Students bring small contributions like toppings, cookies or drinks to accompany the soup.
“I would say the inspiration for these events is simply a sense of community,” said the school’s director Abbi Reese. “It’s really important for our students to feel like they are part of a community that cares about them. Being so small, it can be a challenge to create opportunities for togetherness outside of the normal classroom schedules, but we make it happen.”
Erie High School
Erie High School’s traditional Homecoming events include the football game and dance. Last year was the first year the dance was held in their stadium, and they are continuing the tradition again this year. The town of Erie celebrates Homecoming as well, with a themed Homecoming parade that’s open to the community to contribute floats to the parade. The Homecoming parade is organized by the Optimist Club of Erie, a local non-profit dedicated to sponsoring events that serve the youth of Erie.
Skyline High School’s Senior Sunrise
Every year Skyline High School in Longmont hosts a senior sunrise. Seniors sit on a big hill by the school and watch the sunrise. The Booster Club, a non-profit fundraising organization that supports the extracurricular experience for Skyline High School students, and parents provide doughnuts.
“My experience for the senior Sunrise was amazing for me because I knew that I made it, and soon I was gonna graduate with my friends that I’ve known for a long time,” said 2019 Skyline graduate ColbyAnn Rademacher. “We had music and the staff bought breakfast for us, and we just hung out talking to people we haven’t seen since school ended and summer break started, basically just catching up on everything. It was just amazing.”
“The Senior Sunrise and Sunset is something that I will never forget because it was just completely amazing, and I will cherish forever,” Rademacher said. “I hope Skyline High School keeps that tradition because it is something that you will remember for the rest of your life.”
Nederland Middle-Senior High School Homecoming traditions
The Homecoming game is played by Nederland High School’s soccer team. The football program was eliminated about six years ago when they were struggling with numbers.
The school also hosts a homecoming parade for which students show up early on Homecoming Saturday to build floats. Each class has a float that they parade through town. Escorted by the fire and police departments, the parade starts near Barker Meadow Reservoir and goes through town, ending at the school. Town members stand outside and wave as the convoy passes. The PTA hosts an annual BBQ by the soccer field and the dance is held that night in the gym.
People in Nederland anticipate the parade. Many tourists were up in Nederland for leaf season last year during the parade and were surprised when the highway was briefly shut down, said assistant principal Sean DePaula.
“People are really tied to the school, really tied to the community,” DePaula said.
Boulder High School vs. Fairview High School’s Football Game
Two Boulder high schools, only about 7 minutes away from each other, faceoff in a yearly football game full of traditions and nostalgia.
“For Boulder, in general, it’s one of our biggest events,” said Fairview High School’s student body president Megan Amasa. “It’s always super entertaining. I think that’s a lot of people’s highlight of their year because having a friendly rivalry is always so fun for everyone. It’s a great way to see all of Boulder—a small peak at Boulder’s high school population.”
Poms and cheer always perform, and the student council makes a food dye-cornstarch mixture to throw into the air at halftime. The two teams switch off sides of the stadium each year, with one being “the better side,” Amasa said. The better side has a wall that seniors can sit on.
“This year we got the bad side for my senior year, which is kind of sad, but I’m still excited nonetheless,” Amasa said.
Most students at both schools have friends from the rival school. Students often see students they went to middle or elementary school with.
“Our rivalry/friendship—what we have with Boulder—really helps strengthen the Boulder community and the Fairview one as well,” Amasa said. “You unite together against Boulder High for that one game. Everyone is friends with each other. Everyone at Fairview knows someone at Boulder and vice versa. You always see people that you know from Boulder.”
Amasa remembers attending assemblies as a freshman. She watched her brother’s senior class participate in school events, and thought of them as “spirited.”
“Our class of 2023 hasn’t really had a normal year of high school,” Amasa said. “With the pandemic, [traditions] fell off a little bit because you’re not at school and don’t have the same energy.”
Amasa said that her work with the student council to initiate school traditions during Homecoming week, the Boulder vs. Fairview football game and beyond, “is more important than ever.”
“We really want to rebuild traditions at Fairview and pull our spirit back together,” Amasa said. “With the pandemic we lost some of our spirit. Our senior class really wants to bring that back up.”
Boulder County high schools have no shortage of interesting Homecoming and fall traditions, each an important part of their respective communities.