Community Connections Schools and Youth

What the kids at Paly built for homecoming will blow you away

If you think Palo Alto high school kids are too stressed out to have good, old-fashioned fun, you haven’t been to homecoming at our local high schools. Regardless of how busy these teens are with sports, school and more, they are all in when it comes to homecoming. And 2016 was an epic year, especially for the float building at Paly High School.

A little competition never hurts

At Paly, each class competes for the honor of best float in the homecoming parade. And this rivalry draws literally hundreds of students to the shed where the floats are built each year. The junior class had an especially big turnout for 2016, according to Claire Billman, who was the 2016 Spirit Commissioner for the Paly ASB.

the scene in the float building shed the week before Paly homecoming

the scene in the float building shed the week before Paly homecoming

“There were over 200 juniors who contributed to this year’s float building,” Claire said. “People helped with design, painting, stuffing the papers, morale, food, music, and more. And the other grades also had between 20 and 40 students working on their floats every day.”

That’s especially impressive when you consider that the float building takes place at night and on the weekend during a few short period of time before homecoming. Despite their demanding schedules, Paly kids show up for float building, and the effort is managed and run by the students themselves (with help from their advisor, Matt Hall).


Got goggles? Students hard at work on floats for Paly homecoming

Junior class wins with “Rumble in the Jungle” theme

Building off their class color- yellow- the juniors designed a float that would feature the legendary boxing match between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman in Zaire (now called Democratic Republic of the Congo).  Katie Look created the distinctive ‘shadow’ depiction of the two boxers, which required hours of time to roll colored papers and stuff them into place on the float. “Our class lost to the freshmen last year, so we were inspired to win in 2016,” Claire explained.

Paly junior Katie Look designed the back of the junior float

Paly junior Katie Look designed the back of the junior float

All the floats were impressive for both creativity and effort

While the juniors won the competition, the other three grades also put forth amazing floats for 2016 homecoming.

The freshmen featured a jungle theme, including tiger:

Paly freshmen float

Paly freshmen float theme was “Eye of the Tiger”

The sophomore float had a realistic image of a city in flames, complete with a firefighter coming down a pole:

Student firefighters came down the pole during the parade.

Student firefighters came down the pole during the parade on the sophomore float.

The senior float was a castle theme, complete with a live princess:

The Paly freshmen float included a castle

The Paly senior float with a “Nintendo” theme included a castle

A high bar for next year

How can the students top these amazing floats next year? Knowing Palo Alto kids, they will find a way!

Paly students hard at work on floats for 2016 homecoming

Paly students hard at work on floats for 2016 homecoming

All photos by Matt Hall, Palo Alto High School

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About the author

Victoria Thorp

Victoria Thorp

Victoria is the founder and editor of Palo Alto Pulse and has lived in Palo Alto since 2007. Victoria's diverse professional background includes working as the editor of , as a senior writer for KIPP and Teach for America, and as a radio producer for City Visions on KALW (91.7FM San Francisco). She is a graduate of Leadership Palo Alto and a member of the Palo Alto Partners in Education Advisory Board.

She has a BA in English from Tufts University and Masters in Education and Secondary Teaching Credential in English from UCLA.


  • Thanks for the fun article! To confirm, the Castle Float was built by the senior class of 2017, and the jungle float was built by the freshman class of 2020. I thought you might like to know so that you can correct the photo captions.