Decatur High students will raise money for cystic fibrosis research as they celebrate homecoming next week and hold some activities, including their parade, for the first time in two years.

The parade is scheduled for next Thursday downtown at 5 p.m. It was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic, and its return was welcomed by Decatur High senior class president Amelia Hicks. 

"It feels great because the parade has always been something I've grown up going to since I was a little kid," Hicks said. "It was sad not having it last year, and having it this year will really bring the community together."

Ella Kate Anderson, 13, will be the grand marshal for the 2021 homecoming parade. Anderson is a founding member of the Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“That is our charity that we are raising money for with this homecoming,” said Decatur High teacher Amanda Whitmire, who is homecoming director for the third year.

Hicks is a family friend of Ella Kate and her family and said that is the reason she and the student council decided to raise money for cystic fibrosis.

"I've grown up with her and aided her with her (fundraising) walks, so I just thought it was a good cause to raise money for," Hicks said. 

Whitmire said the parade this year will be much like the school's parades before 2020.

“There is a slight change,” Whitmire said. “Instead of the parade starting at Banks-Caddell Elementary and continuing across Gordon (Drive) and down Second Avenue, the Police Department has changed the starting point for the parade and so it will now start at the (Morgan County-Decatur) Farmers Market and then zig up to Grant Street and then onto Second Avenue.”

The parade route will be the same that Austin High School traveled during its homecoming. Decatur police did not want Gordon Drive Southeast to be blocked off by floats coming across on Second Avenue from Banks-Caddell Elementary in case access to the overpass was needed in an emergency.

Decatur will use its large traditional floats in the parade.

“There are some new limitations regarding height of the floats,” Whitmire said. “The panels can no longer be taller than 12½ feet and no wider than 24 feet.”

The presentation of the homecoming court will happen during halftime of the Oct. 29 football game against Huntsville at Ogle Stadium. Last year, the court was presented before the game as a precaution against the spread of COVID.

Decatur students had to resort to hallway decorations in 2020 when they weren’t allowed to have a parade. Each grade had a hallway that students decorated.

Right after the decorations were finished, Decatur City Schools made the decision to go virtual, which prevented any further homecoming activities.

“The kids didn’t even really get to experience the hallways that they created,” Whitmire said. “We left them up for like two weeks. It wasn’t nearly as exciting for the kids as it could’ve been.”

The parade will end on Bank Street, where a pep rally will be held outside on the steps of the Old State Bank.

“In that little cobblestone street area, we’ll have a big flatbed trailer that our cheerleaders will stand on top of along with our football players and Coach (Jere) Adcock,” Whitmire said. “The fans will surround the raised-up flatbed truck.”

Whitmire added that having a pep rally outdoors will be safer and people can practice social distancing more effectively.

Dress up days for next week include space day on Monday, twin day on Tuesday, color wars on Wednesday, and throwback Thursday. On game day, students will wear either homecoming shirts or “spirit attire.”

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