Rituals and Education – Denfeld High School: A school full of Spirit and Tradition – by Kyle Dosan. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
If one ever gets the chance to drive around West Duluth, it will not take them long to notice the big brick school with a clock tower that stands more than one-hundred feet tall. This building is the one and only Duluth Denfeld High School, home of the Denfeld Hunters. Duluth Denfeld, which is normally just referred to as Denfeld by alumni and present students has been around since the early twentieth century. For a school that has been around for such a long time, it has many traditions that have been carried out and practiced throughout the years. As a graduate from the hallowed halls of Denfeld in 2015, I am happy to share with you the traditions, old and new, of this historic building. At the beginning of a new school year one fun filled week called “Spirit Week” ensues. Just about every high school has a Spirit Week, but the 5 day festivities that capture school spirit and excitement truly sets Denfeld far apart from any run of the mill spirit week.
Starting on the second to last Thursday in September the Homecoming Court is announced, along with what activities and dress up days will consume Spirit Week. From dressing up in costumes to class color day, there are three days that make the Homecoming Spirit Week at Denfeld such a blast. On Wednesday of Spirit Week each student is instructed to wear blaze orange and ‘camo’ to school and following into the nighttime there is an all school bonfire at Merritt Park in West Duluth. Huge wooden crates are brought onto the softball field in the park and the fire is started by the Duluth Fire Department. Denfeld is the only school in the ISD 709 district allowed to have a bonfire. It is a privilege and the teachers and staff reiterate this to every student because Merritt Park is right in the middle of a neighborhood, and we were reminded to respect not only the park, but everyone in the community. At one point during the bonfire, the seniors will split up into two groups and play the game called Red Rover. For those of you who are not familiar with Red Rover it is a pretty simple (yet dangerous) game. There are two teams (usually named team 1 and 2) that stand about forty feet apart from each other and each team stands shoulder to shoulder, creating a chain link fence while locking arms. The teams will take turns calling out a few names and the selected people must run and try to break the wall of the opposing team, if the people fail to break the wall they must join the opposing team. If one of the runners breaks the chain of the opposing team they must select two people from the opposing team and bring them over to their team. When one team has a shortage of players they must rush and try to break the chain of the opposing team and if they fail to do so they lose.
(Picture of some of the senior class of 2015 at the school bonfire)
The day after the bonfire is “dress your best day” and when the Homecoming King and Queen are selected. My senior year I was fortunate to be on the Homecoming Court and was crowned the Homecoming King. The last day of spirit week is Maroon and Gold Day, which if you couldn’t guess are Denfeld’s school colors. The halls are decorated in maroon and gold streamers and posters with the students decked out with their maroon and gold clothing. Toward the end of the day everyone gathers into the gym where the pep band plays various songs, a maroon and gold contest is held and the most spirited Hunter decked out in maroon and gold wins, along with the football players being introduced and have a funny dance, choreographed by the dance team to pump every student up for the homecoming game. Crazy skits and throwing pies into faculty members faces also highlight some of the fun to be had on homecoming week. Right after school gets out that Friday of Homecoming there is a tailgate in the parking lot prior to the football game. I have to admit the student government at my high school came up with some funny and clever dress up days that made spirit weeks such a blast.
(Picture of the 2015 Homecoming Court)
One other tradition that helps Denfeld stand out is the all school “Lip Dub.” This is a new tradition that started in twenty-fourteen. A Lip Dub is a video where a group of people lip sync a song and show off the many sports and clubs of the school. Don’t worry I will leave a link down below for you all to see Denfeld’s lip dubs. Now there was a reason for the making of the lip dubs; back in twenty-fourteen members of the senior class who were in a club called Junior Rotary, were instructed to create a project that includes the whole student body and shows off what being a Hunter is all about. In the video, various students lip synced to the song “It’s Always a Good Time” by Owl City and Carley Rae Jepsen throughout the school showing the interior of Denfeld, leading to the magnificent auditorium towards the end of the video and every student singing the school song. Ever since the inaugural lip dub there have been three additional videos, two of which are with the whole student body and the other is by another club called Link Crew, a club that help freshmen have a smooth transition into their first year of high school. I was a junior when the first lip dub was created, and the best way I could describe getting every student and club into their little section of the school was controlled chaos. It was very fun and exciting to be part of this process because this video brought school spirit to a whole new level that I never thought was possible. Even former Duluth mayor Don Ness and now new Duluth Mayor Emily Larson have appeared in the lip dubs.
One last tradition that is pretty overlooked is a chant between the seniors and freshmen before every school assembly in the auditorium. It first must be noted that there is a big balcony that all freshmen have to sit on with one of their assigned classes. All the seniors sit right in the front rows of the auditorium, and it is quite a big deal to be a senior and have a spot in the senior section. Before the school assembly starts, all of the senior class stands up and chants “Freshmen on the shelf!”, while the freshmen respond with, “Seniors in the Cellar!”, and this chant will go on for about a minute. The staff is fine with this and encourage the freshmen to yell back at the seniors. When I was a freshman, I admit I was kind of leery of taking part in this chant just because this happened on the first day of school and I was sort of nervous. As the school year progressed I got used to it and tried to yell as loud as I could. As a senior it was fun to start off the chant, and in a way come full circle with the tradition.
From the homecoming spirit week to the new tradition of lip dubs, to the chant before each school assembly, this shows how big traditions play a role in schools. Yes, there are other traditions that I left out like formal dances, but this is typical for any school. I wanted to show the different traditions that make my alma mater unique. Just remember that tradition plays a big role with the identity of a family, friend group and schools. Our parents grew up with traditions and have tried to instill them with us. Traditions are something to be cherished because as the years change traditions can easily die out. Looking back on my school and even my family I have a greater appreciation for the role traditions play in my life.
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