Event includes tailgating, bonfire at South Park
By Angie Landsverk
A tailgate party, snake dance and bonfire are all part of a new event Wednesday, Sept. 30 to celebrate Waupaca’s Homecoming.
The Homecoming Tailgate Party falls in the middle of Homecoming Week, and community members are encouraged to wear their Comet apparel and “show their spirit in any way they can,” said Terri Schulz, president of the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce.
The alcohol free event is being held in partnership with the Chamber, city of Waupaca and retailers from the Waupaca, King & In Between group.
“It will be very family oriented,” Schulz said. “I think we just want it to be a celebration for the students.”
The Wednesday evening activities will lead up to Friday’s Homecoming parade and game, said Brennan Kane, the city’s development director.
The Sept. 30 tailgate party will take place from 4-6:30 p.m. on the block of North Main Street between Sessions and Granite streets.
That block of Main Street will be closed from noon to 7 p.m. on that day.
Those who want to tailgate need to either visit the Chamber office or call it at 715-258-7343 to reserve a space.
The cost will be $10, with the funds going to the Waupaca Comets Booster Club.
If tailgate space is still available the day of the event, people will also be able to pay the $10 fee then and tailgate on North Main Street.
Along with their grills, food and non-alcoholic beverages, tailgaters are encouraged to bring Comet decorations for their spaces.
“At 6 p.m., we will do the judging for the best tailgate set-up,” Kane said.
First, second and third-place prizes will be awarded.
Prizes will also be awarded that night for the best window displays.
A window decorating contest is one of several ideas the group is resurrecting from Waupaca’s past.
The group is working with Waupaca High School to bring it back.
In addition to that contest, Homecoming celebrations in Waupaca used to include a snake dance and a bonfire, and both of those will also be part of the Homecoming Tailgate Party.
When the tailgating ends around 6:30 p.m., the Waupaca Middle School Band will play music at it marches down the sidewalk, from downtown to South Park.
While many people will likely drive to the park, Kane said they hope some people walk behind the band on its route.
Once the band arrives at South Park, there will be a snake dance down to the beach, where the bonfire will be held.
Schulz, who grew up in Waupaca, explained what the snake dance is.
“For years, starting at the high school, the cheerleaders would lead what we called the snake dance to the athletic field,” she said.
Arm in arm, they would “snake” to Haberkorn Field, where they had a huge bonfire, Schulz said.
The bonfire on South Park’s beach will also include representatives from all of WHS’s fall sports teams.
The district’s younger students will be able to be meet and greet them.
Members of this year’s Homecoming Court are also expected to be in attendance.
The bonfire portion of the Homecoming Tailgate Party is scheduled from 7 p.m. to approximately 8:30 p.m.
The Homecoming Tailgating Party is the second new event being sponsored this year by the city, Chamber and area retailers.
It follows last month’s Spudder Mini Open.
These new events are the result of a downtown visioning process that took place last year.
With Main Street slated to be reconstructed in a few years, a concern was how to support downtown businesses when that occurs, Kane said.
“The thought was to establish some events now, so when the reconstruction comes, there will be established events to attract people even when the reconstruction is going on,” he said.
Letting people know what businesses are downtown – before construction starts – is also part of these new events, according to Schulz.
That is why many of the businesses will be open later on Sept. 30.
In addition, people may visit businesses earlier that week and pick up tailgating recipes the shops are sharing.
Those who picked up recipes before the Spudder Mini Open already have the recipe book sponsored by Farmers State Bank.
The three-ring binder includes pocketed sheet protectors, and “they simply slide in the recipe cards,” Schulz said.
She said anyone may pick up the recipe book at the Chamber office.
The office will also be the place to find out which shops are sharing tailgating recipes.
Those who do not want to tailgate on Sept. 30 but want to be part of the festivities may be able to purchase takeout food at some downtown establishments, Schulz said.
In 2016, the group plans to expand on what it is calling its “summer nights” program.
“Next year, we will have three events,” Kane said.