Life of a Homecoming Float

Senior class 1980s themed winning float from concept to Mt. Royal Blvd.


In honor of Shaler Area 50th’s annual homecoming, this year’s float theme, “SA Rewind”, called upon participating students to design and construct a float based on a specific decade, ranging from the 1970s to the 2010s, with a specific element from a winning float in that decade.

The tedious design process all begins with an idea; the senior class, which was delegated to create the 80s themed float, took on a huge challenge this year with their highly ambitious design that included the DeLorean from “Back to the Future”, a portal in the background, a flux capacitor on the inside, and Miss Piggy sitting in the driver’s seat.

“Back to the Future got thrown out and we pretty much decided right then and there that that’s what we would do,” senior float representative Becca Beckas said.

“We came up with the concept when we had to choose our decade and Flannery (Loudon) wanted to do the eighties just for a Back to the Future concept, then we added Miss Piggy because as part of the requirements for the float we had to include an element from a float from our chosen decade,” senior class President Julia Ehrenberger said.

As the design actually comes to fruition, the next step involves calculating the float dimensions in order to assess the practicality of the design and to confirm exactly how many resources and manpower will be needed before fully committing to it.

“It was super challenging, but it was so important that we had enough material to complete the whole float,” Ehrenberger said.

Once the students had an idea of exactly what they were dealing with, they were able to commence with the building process which begins in the summer with the creation of the skirts that line the bottom of the float. These are created using colorful napkins that are peeled, folded, and fluffed to look like flowers before being attached to a wire netting.

“Building the actual float was time consuming of course, but the skirts are what caused us the most trouble with time. We, of course, worked on them all summer, but a group of us even ended up pulling two all-nighters the week of homecoming to get them done,” Beckas said.

As progress on the skirts near a close, the students are then given the seemingly most insurmountable task of all: they are allowed a total of about 24 hours spanned across a week to actually create the design.

“The hardest part was building the whole thing from scratch. It took a lot of trial and error but we eventually found our pace and were able to get to work,” Ehrenberger said.

The seniors definitely came across road bumps in the construction process, as several plans for the float had to be discarded for a multitude of reasons.

“The wood was splitting, tissue paper was falling off, people on the ground were essentially trying to backseat drive, everybody’s yelling, and folks are still pomping the floor of the float, so the whole structure is rocking while the doors are being held up,” senior Aidan Brophy said.

Although tensions were running high as time became more and more limited, the seniors ultimately came together and managed to pull off an amazing float that fulfilled all of the necessary requirements.

“I feel like not a lot of people know how much work goes into the whole thing-from just the idea to making it actually happen was really challenging. We knew we had a good idea and had the drive to make it happen so we did the best we could to execute our plan and were successful,” Ehrenberger said. “I’m really proud and impressed with everyone who contributed to the whole process, because it genuinely would not have been finished if we didn’t have everyone there with us.”

The efforts of these hard working students definitely paid off, as the seniors were given first place in the competition.

“Being crowned homecoming queen was really amazing and something that I’m extremely grateful for, but it wasn’t something that was for me, it was for the entire group of seniors who helped us with the float starting in July all the way to the night before Homecoming – the skirts, construction, and pomps – and I was just the representative for them. So while it was of course cool to have won queen, it was our class that really won,” Beckas said.

While proud of their own creation, the senior class representatives are also happy to see people from all grades getting involved in the homecoming festivities. Ehrenberger continually encourages students to get involved after her own positive experience through the years.

“I want them to know that they would have such a good time meeting new people and being a part of something so special if they got involved in float construction,” she said.