Thursday night hundreds gathered at Fort Dale Academy to cheer on all the youngsters from peewee to varsity who play a role in the Eagles athletic program this fall.
The occasion was the school's second annual “Back to School Bash.” Plenty of red and blue was visible as cheerleaders pumped their pompoms, twirlers spun their batons and dance team members showed off some impressive high kicks for the crowd.
The younger set hit the “jungle bus” and “bouncy castle” inflatables to work off some steam while golden oldies played over the loudspeaker system.
Mouthwatering smells wafted from the newly air-conditioned concession stand, where fans could pick up a meal to enjoy in the stands or take home or simply enjoy a cold drink in the hot late August weather.
Fans could also pick up plenty of FDA fan items, from polo shirts, car flags and beads to camo hats at the school's brand-new Spirit Booth.
And we do mean brand-new.
“I came out here a couple of times today to set up, but they weren't finished yet,” volunteer Jill Stallworth said with a smile as she and fellow volunteers hustled to haul out the items for sale.
“This is so wonderful. I have storage places where I can lock up the low-ticket items, so we don't have to carry them back and forth. Plus, I have a ceiling fan!” Stallworth exclaimed.
The school's Secret Spirit Committee has also provided a new seating section close to the field designated for students' use. Flags emblazon the section's corners, and on Thursday night a big sign proclaimed: “The Eagle Has Landed: Welcome to the Nest.”
Also in the works: a new ticket booth and an “Eagle Walk” that will be painted each weekend, taking the players down from the locker room to the field.
“Lots of exciting things are going on at Fort Dale,” Bess Nordgren, JV Dance Team coach said with a grin.
All the players, twirlers, cheerleaders and dance team members got a chance to take a bow and even strut their stuff Thursday night.
The Peewee Termites, coached by Kenny Burkett, will kick off their season next Tuesday at 5 p.m. The peewee twirlers, coached Jackie Thompson, will be on hand to entertain the crowds while Melissa Norrell's peewee cheerleaders will pump up their spirits.
The Peewee players, coached by Keith Taylor, are slated to play their first game at 6 p.m. next Tuesday night.
Abbie Ballew's JV twirlers, who performed a routine to “Boyfriend” and Bess Nordgren's JV dance team, who high-kicked to “Do You Believe in Magic?” will entertain the spectators on Tuesday nights during the JV season.
The JV cheerleaders, lead by Ashley Langford, performed to “Have a Nice Day” on Thursday night.
Finally it was time for the senior high folks to make their appearance.
Lisa Singleton's varsity dancers performed more of their signature high kicks, while
varsity twirler Jordan Peavey, also coached by Ballew, performed a routine to “Brown-Eyed Girl.”
Marianne Russell's award-winning varsity cheerleaders also took the field to perform.
The JV football team finally took their bows, with Coach Scott Yancey calling them “the best looking of all the teams at FDA.”
“These guys have been working hard, trying to get ready for the season. We sure appreciate your support on each of these eight upcoming Tuesday nights,” Yancey said.
The sophomores, juniors and seniors who make up the Eagle varsity squad made their appearance with Coach “Speed” Sampley.
Announcer Ken Gibson also asked the crowd to give a hand to the water girls as they came down with the team.
“They've worked really hard this past month in the heat,” Gibson said.
Sampley made mention of the numerous physical improvements made on campus.
“The whole place looks really good. Folks have done a lot of hard work and I appreciate everyone who did this.” Sampley said.
“Last week we went up and beat Edgewood largely due to ‘Golden-Toe (Kendall) GibsonŠtomorrow night we have Hooper. It's a regional game and a home game - so come on out and support us,” Sampley said.