Homecoming is a big tradition for Texas schools, and it could be argued that nowhere in Texas is homecoming celebrated more than in Hardin, Texas. During homecoming week, Hardin schools promote the event through dress-up days, lavish mums, pep rallies, a tailgating party and a decorating contest that transforms the high school hallways.
The driving force behind the hallway decorating contest is Amanda Kersh Key, who teaches high school government, economics and photography. Key also is an expert at creating seasonal backdrops for her photography business.
The hallway decorating tradition began in 1999 to 2000. Key, a new teacher at the time, noticed that school spirit was lacking from the days when she had been a cheerleader for Hardin High School.
“That first year we decorated the hallways, though on a much smaller scale than today,” she said.
The contest challenges students in all high school grades to come up with a design based on a theme picked by Student Council. This year, the theme is “Storybooks.” Student council members per grade then picked the specific storybook that grade used. For the seniors, the theme is “Little Red Riding Hood”; the juniors went with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”; the sophomores picked “Beauty and the Beast”; and the freshmen have a “Three Little Pigs” theme.
Students are asked to incorporate elements of Hardin ISD’s history and school pride, which they do, so there are mascots, photos of their teachers, yearbooks, football jerseys, pom poms, mums, football helmets and other items in the displays every year.
Most of the prep work for the contest is done off-site at the students’ homes. On Sunday, Aug. 28, there was a flurry of activity at the high school as the students, their parents and HHS alumni set up the displays in two hallways during a four-hour window of time. Precisely at 4 p.m., all work ended and judging began.
The senior hallway is filled with faux trees representing the forest that Little Red Riding Hood walked through on her way to Grandma’s House. A Hornet mascot is represented as Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf is represented as the Evadale Rebels, the varsity football team that will face off against the Hardin Hornets at Friday night’s football game.
The junior hallway is made to look like a mining tunnel for the Seven Dwarves. Snow White, using Coach Regina Snell’s photo, is laid out upon a bed while her husband and fellow Coach Randy Snell’s photo is placed on the “Prince” standing beside her.
The sophomore hallway is lined with dark drapes on the walls and gold fabric on the ceiling to represent the castle in Beauty and the Beast. Above the hallway entrance are blue, gold and white balloons with “Be Our Guest” written in large lettering.
The freshman hallway has all three houses represented from the Three Little Pigs. The first house made of straw has a sign that says, “He huffed,” the second – a wood house – has a sign that reads “And he puffed,” and the third house – made of brick – has a banner that reads “He couldn’t blow the Hornets’ house down!”
While the displays require a considerable commitment from parents, who pay and build some of the new elements, it has gotten a bit easier over time as pieces get stored and recycled year after year into the new themes, said Key.
“Anything that the parents don’t want back, we take to a storeroom at the old elementary campus. I think every grade has at least one recycled element in addition to the memorabilia,” she said
High School Principal Stacy Tucker said that Hardin High School parent participation for this contest is outstanding.
“We even have alumni, who don’t even have children at this school, coming back to help out. There are people I haven’t seen in years coming in, and it’s nice to see,” Tucker said. “Homecoming is a big tradition everywhere but there is nothing like the hallway decorations at Hardin High School.”
The winner of the contest will be announced on Friday as part of the halftime festivities at the football game. There is no prize for winning, except for bragging rights for a year and recognition through the school district.