Ranger fans will get to experience some form of homecoming celebration, whether virtual or in-person, during the last week of October. The football game, however, will not be available to attend for most fans due to the pandemic and restrictions by the MSHSL.

With the Minnesota State High School League making its decision in September to bring back the fall sports that were originally planned to be moved to the spring, the Forest Lake Area School District has been rushed to create and adapt to a new fall sports schedule. 

Now that the fall schedule has been finished, Athletic Director Mike Hennen has begun laying the framework for an end of October homecoming with the help of the Forest Lake Area High School student council. 

Homecoming theme this year

The year’s homecoming logo reflects the year it almost wasn’t.

“Most of this all comes from [the student council],” Hennen said, “All the ideas for the days and what we’re going to do, and they had all kinds of them. We had to wade through ‘Can we do this one?,’ ‘Can we not do this one?,’ so I think we got a nice compromise there of things we feel are safe and important and that we can do within our guidelines that they are giving us at the school here.”

The student council and Hennen are working under the CDC and Minnesota Department of Education guidelines for safety, and Hennen is continuing to work on the logistics for certain homecoming week events, but the festivities will begin Oct. 26 and be capped off with a home football game on Oct. 30. 

While there won’t be every typical event (for instance, the homecoming dance is canceled), students can expect to see events such as a voting for a homecoming court, a virtual coronation, and spirit days. There will also be sporting events going on during the week with volleyball, football and possibly soccer all having games. Fans who cannot attend due to restrictions can still watch games virtually. Hennen is trying to find a way to get every traditional event done that he can.  

“We’d love to do everything we always do,” Hennen said. “A big part of this event, I think for the kids and just bringing all the schools together, is the spirit bus.”

Forest Lake Area High School Principal Jim Caldwell is also working with Hennen to make sure that homecoming events happen, knowing just how important it is to the community.

“Homecoming is such a tradition and it’s important to follow tradition as much as possible,” Caldwell said.

Fall and spring sports

The traditional Friday night home football game, and every game this season, will look a little different as COVID-19 restrictions have changed the number of spectators that can be present. 

The MSHSL has allowed for up to 250 fans to attend outdoor football games this fall. The Forest Lake Area School District has worked with other schools in their section to decide that both home teams and visiting teams will be allowed to have 125 spectators each. 

With school rosters holding 60 players, each student-athlete will be allowed to have two tickets for the game and up to four tickets if they live in a split household. 

Hennen also said they will not be adding any additional seating to the stadium as they have in years past, because their home bleachers can currently hold over 300 people at 6 feet apart, leaving the stadium with plenty of seating. 

With the return of football and volleyball to the fall, Hennen is now hopeful that spring sports will be returned to their normal time slot. 

“Ten sports lost their season a year ago and got the short end of the stick last spring when they canceled everything,” Hennen said. “[It is] fantastic that those two sports got moved back. Hopefully, I haven’t gotten official word yet, spring sports will be back on their normal schedule.”

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