This year's Homecoming festivities are well under way at Hotchkiss High School. The days leading up to the highlight, Friday night's Homecoming football game and dance, are filled with class competitions, Crazy Day, Sports Day, Twin Day and school colors dress-up days, and the traditional Friday afternoon parade through the heart of town.
And while school tradition calls for members of the freshman class to whitewash the iconic "H" located off of Highway 92 between town and Hotchkiss High School, starting early this morning, students will continue efforts already under way to stabilize and protect the 100 foot high, 25 foot wide structure.
The Bulldog icon and "hillside letter," visible from town and surrounding mesas, began in 1951 as an initiation of four freshmen into the school's lettermen's club that involved digging a trench on the steep hillside in the shape of an "H." In 1954, the H was improved upon with the filling in of the trench with white rocks hauled in from Rogers Mesa. In 1959 an unsuccessful attempt was made to fill the trenches with concrete, and in 1960, efforts to pour cement were successful. Each year since, the freshman class has whitewashed the H ahead of the Homecoming football game.
But the H is showing its age. Members of the Hotchkiss High School Alumni Association recently raised funds to begin efforts to stabilize the huge letter from ongoing erosion and look for ways to prevent it from crumbling. Recent plans to mend it with concrete were deemed too difficult and costly.
Ray Katzdorn, an HHS graduate and member of the Hotchkiss High School Alumni Association, is spearheading this year's Homecoming Week work on the H, which includes covering the structure in white Pro-Panel metal roofing. Once the project is complete, said Katzdorn, "It will look very different."
Katzdorn and a group of high school boys worked every Wednesday throughout the summer to prepare for the roofing material, driving stakes for the wood framing and carving a trail around the perimeter. In recent days, said Katzdorn, HHS alumni have worked to install the base framing, which will allow students, weather permitting, to begin placing the roofing materials over the concrete today.
"This is the best route," said Katzdorn. Because the roofing material won't fade, the H will no longer need a fresh coat of paint every year. But there will still be a lot of work for future freshmen, including improving and maintaining the path and continuing erosion control efforts through trench work and construction of erosion barriers.
Also happening today, members of the sophomore and junior classes will add a fresh layer of paint to the Bulldog paw prints leading from Highway 92 to the school, while the seniors will participate in the annual ritual of decorating and signing their names on the wall of one of the main hallways.
Thursday evening beginning at 6 p.m., the boys compete for the coveted title of Peach Fuzz volleyball champion. At 7:30 p.m., the girls take to the gridiron for the annual Powder Puff football tournament. At 9 p.m., things will heat up with the lighting of the annual bonfire.
Students will spend Friday morning building floats in anticipation of the annual Homecoming Parade, preceded by an all-school pep rally. The parade begins at 1 p.m. in downtown Hotchkiss.
At 4, 5 and 6 p.m. Friday, the Lady Bulldogs take to the court in their homecoming volleyball matches against Vail Christian. Kickoff for the Bulldogs' football game, against Vail Christian, is at 7 p.m.
At halftime, homecoming royalty will be crowned. This year's royalty includes freshman attendants Elsie Vasquez and Evan Mattison, sophomore attendants Taylor Deluzio and Presley Pene, and juniors Jordan Tamayo and Devin Curtis. Senior candidates for Homecoming Queen include Lacey Rodriguez, Morgan Keeler, Cara Littlefield and Rachel Hillyer, and candidates for King are Kale Litzelman, Parker Katzdorn, Joe Nault and Colton Hall.
The seventh annual Eckert Crane Days, the annual viewing of the sandhill cranes migrating north from New Mexico through Colorado's West Slope, will be March 16-18. Representatives from the Black Canyon Chapter of the Audubon Society (BCAS) will be at the viewing site east of Eckert at Fruitgrowers Reservoir, 9 to 11 a.m. each day, to answer questions and provide binoculars and spotting scopes.