Teacher Wendy Overton-Ervin, watching the homecoming parade with friends from a Blue Devils tailgating club, said she has seen improvements during her 24 years with the school.
“The pep rally was amazing. It was much better. The crowds are bigger for the parade because they moved it to 5 o’clock,” she said about the former early-afternoon event.
Adults, teens and children lined Polk Street, facing Marietta Square as a police cruiser’s flashing lights heralded the ROTC color guard and the Marching Blue Devils.
Overton said she was reminded of another upgraded in the festivities.
“They have better floats,” she said.
The band float sported signs saying “Spear the Spartans” and “Can Campbell,” referring to the opposing team, whom Marietta beat, 44-36.
The team itself drew cheers as players advanced on foot toward Northcutt Stadium, escorted by a hay wagon full of alumni cheerleaders shaking pom-poms.
Former cheerleader Terry Grosser, class of 1973, said homecoming week was always very special to her.
“It was exciting — the floats and the dresses,” she said about homecoming court candidates’ gowns. “But it’s not anything without everyone participating in it.”
Girls in powder-blue formals waved from convertibles, like the 1958 red-and-white Ford Fairlane bearing senior Miranda Houston and her escort, Hunter Wood.
This year’s theme, the Olympic Games, was the subject of its own motorized display while varsity cheerleaders belted out the school song from their ride.
“Fight on, Marietta, for the good old blue and white,” they sang.
Blue and white was everywhere, from the costumed mascot and the cowbells rung by 9-year-old Marcos Rios to the cupcakes sold by Marietta Schools Foundation members.
“This is the only way the foundation is making money,” Dawn Dunaway McEachern, class of 1989, said about the inaugural bake sale, part of the first-time Blue Devil Block Party and Food Truck Fest. “There are no dessert food trucks. This is the dessert food truck, so to speak.”
The foundation’s banquets and events chair said her organization wanted to establish a new tradition by bringing in the mobile food vendors.
“We needed a great way to celebrate homecoming and one that brings more awareness to the Marietta Schools Foundation and the Alumni Society, but we didn’t want too much risk,” she said. “If you plan an event and it rains, there’s a risk. The food trucks assume their own risk.”
The colorful caravan of purveyors like Snap! Franks & Coneys, Happy Belly and Fry Guy turned Winn Street into Food Alley.
“The food trucks are fun and festive,” McEachern said. “They’re very popular. We felt people of all ages would love them.”
Long lines snaked toward mouth-watering aromas emanating from portable kitchens as customers selected their orders, socializing while waiting and mingling afterward.
The Stiles Brothers played selections like “Footloose,” giving picnickers entertainment and listeners a sonic backdrop.
It added up to an atmosphere, McEachern said, that keeps its charm no matter what.
“To me, it seems it never changes,” McEachern said. “It makes Marietta different from other school systems. People tend to come back.”
Katharine Hall, 2011 homecoming queen, said the event’s name doesn’t apply in her town.
“I’m glad Marietta is so tight-knit,” she said. “I don’t think alumni have to come home. I think they just know to.”
Coach Charlie Crittenden said Marietta has an advantage over the Richmond, Va., school he came from three years ago.
“This is a homecoming at a whole ’nother level,” he said.