HILMAR, Calif. -- While many high schools celebrate homecoming by building parade floats, few can match the floats of Hilmar High School.
"Our floats are extravagant, it's not just a trailer with paper and paint," said Beth Dias, mother of a freshman at Hilmar. "We really are Rose Bowl 2.0."
The town of Hilmar is home to just over 5,000 people, and a good portion of them come out for homecoming.
"Homecoming is like a big deal in our town," said Emalie Brasil, junior class president. "We spend months working on these floats, I've stayed with a couple of other girls until three in the morning."
The tradition of float-building at Hilmar stretches back to 1962, but automated floats complete with moving parts only go back a couple of decades. Floats are expected to be nearly entirely covered with "flowers" (colored tissue paper that's folded and placed through chicken wire) and automation is practically an expectation.
This year, the homecoming theme was "Hilmar is Unbelievable," and each class ran with it: the freshmen float featured Big Foot, the sophomores had witches, the juniors had a dragon and the senior class had a UFO.
"The kids come up with all these ideas on their own, so it's just parents and all of us trying to make their vision come to life," Dias said. The parents play a big role in bringing the creations to life, particularly with the automation.
The floats are built over the course of weeks, with most classes getting started this year in mid-September. They're all built in homes around town, away from the prying eyes of other students.
"So somebody opens up their home, we feed the kids dinner every night," said Melissa Alvares, the sophomore class advisor. "This is all community-based. So every class fundraises money."
"If you're from Hilmar, you love Hilmar," Alvares said. "It wraps its arms around its people."
When asked what she would do with all her time once the float was done, Brasil said "my dad actually just gave me a talk about how I'm never home for dinner, so probably have dinner with my family more often."
The junior class won the float competition and will control bragging rights for the rest of the school year. For a look at all the floats, check out the video above.
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