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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Homecoming Roalty, Linton, ND Style

I have a friend, whom by any social measurement of her life’s accomplishments, would be labeled an unqualified success. Still a few years on the sunny side of 40, she can look back at a life that has displayed across the board achievement. In particular, her school days are a resume that would make anyone jealous. A widely decorated athlete and an accomplished scholar, she won it all. All-State on the courts and track, combined with top academic standing in her class, she was the quintessential golden girl every parent dreams of.

Ms. Samantha Gross, Linton, ND 2011 Homecoming Queen

One night, in a rare moment of vulnerability – perhaps due to inhibitions loosened by the lubrication of a few malt beverages - she made a startling revelation to me about herself. All of her high school awards and accomplishments, she told me in a whisper, she would have gladly traded for the one honor that eluded her in her high school days of glory; “I always wanted to be Homecoming Queen, ever since I was a little girl” she admitted in a sad voice, little tempered by the passing of 20 years, “I dreamed about it, but I didn’t make it. I would gladly have traded every other honor I won to just be Homecoming Queen.”

The celebration of Homecoming in small town high schools across this vast nation is a community rite of passage and the social event of the school year. It is a time of not only celebration, but of amazing transformation. A farm wagon, used 364 days a year for the mundane chore of  hauling hay, on one magic Friday night each Fall, becomes –with the generous application of crape paper - a throne worthy of royalty, a setting for the Queen and her court. A sleepy town square, dusty and empty on most days, is now a “parade route,” lined with the town’s young and old; those who dream of what will be and those who remember what once was.

The highlight of the week’s long celebration, the one moment no one will miss and the most breathtaking transformation for the town to witness occurs during the halftime introduction of the Homecoming Queen candidates. Girls who come to school each day sans makeup, dressed in their normal attire of jeans and tee shirts, or after school in their volleyball practice gear; now take the spotlight. Wow. They are, for that one shining night at least, the best the town has to offer, the fairest maidens in the land. Dressed in total splendor, hair done just right, evening dresses, elaborate makeup and stylish shoes; no expense spared, they command attention. A proud but nervous dad, searching but failing to find the right words to confront what he has long tried to ignore; the reality of his little girl maturing into a women, will awkwardly offer, “cleans up nicely, don’t she?”

Linton, ND High School crowned its 2011 Homecoming Queen at halftime of the football game last Friday, September 9. The protocol for selecting the Queen varies slightly from school to school, but Linton’s method is typical and common. Each class, plus the Athletic and the Co-Curricular clubs, will each choose a candidate from the girls in the senior class; a total of six nominees. The entire student body will then vote for their choice.

The winner in Linton for this year is Ms. Samantha Gross, daughter of Sam and Missy Gross. Samantha’s has four siblings, including her twin brother, Jayden, a star receiver on the Lions’ football team. Samantha shared with me, during an interview the week after her coronation, that she is presently undecided on a future career, but does plan to attend college next fall. She has good memories of growing up in the small North Dakota town and would like to raise her family, someday, in a similar nurturing environment. Her large family has deep roots in the area, her father is a second generation farmer and her mother works at the local medical clinic. Sam, or Samantha, according to her -doesn’t matter and either is fine - is also a valued member of the Lion’s volleyball team, who finished last season as the state of North Dakota's Class B runner-up.

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