Choctaw High School celebrates 70 years, Homecoming, and brings back Big Green Indian tradition

It’s been 70 years in the making as the Big Green Indians celebrate their 70th birthday, along with Homecoming, on Friday, October 21, 2022 at Choctawhatchee High School.

  • With 70 years of tradition and decades of alumni, the place to be on Friday night will be at Joe Etheredge the stadium.

“We always do a morning pep-rally for homecoming, but this year there is some extra flare to celebrate our 70th,” said Principal Michelle Heck. “Fort Walton Beach Mayor Dick Rynearson will be on hand to give his proclamation and we have Roy Pike, the oldest alumni of Choctaw High School, coming to the pep-rally.”

  • Mr. Pike is from the class of 1953 and he was part of the 50th and 60th Anniversary celebrations. He is also the man who did the first kick-off for Choctaw football.
  • Also in attendance will be two of the 3 former Choctaw Principals.

In anticipation for a big alumni turnout, Heck says they have reserved the entire upper deck of the gymnasium for all of the alumni.

  • “Let’s be honest, it’s a lot of decades and we already have signs for every decade of alumni group up there,” she said.
Choctaw mural painted last month by alum EJ Nieves as part of the 70th celebration.

Immediately after the pep-rally is the alumni reception that will be in the media center. This year, the school has organized some Alumni Tours and will also host the dedication of the Indian from Jim and Sigrid Hawkins that was purchased on behalf of class of 1971.

That closes out the morning, as the Tribe prepares to open the gates at 4:45pm that afternoon for another alumni reception in the north end zone.

At 6pm, the school launches into their Homecoming and Alumni Parade. As part of the parade, alumni will walk with their decade and will also feature all former (living) principals as well as the Homecoming court.

  • “During the pandemic, we went away from the parade and now it is back and it is part of our tradition,” said Heck. “I know a lot of alumni are looking forward to that and are bringing their kids and their grandkids to participate.”

Pre-game festivities begin at 6:30pm, and will features performances from the cheerleaders, Indianettes, JROTC, madrigal singing, and the Style-marchers.

Kick-off is at 7:15pm.

September 22, 1952

While the Big Green Indians will definitely celebrate their 70th this Friday, their actual birthday was last month, on September 22.

On that day, Heck and her staff had a more intimate celebration will just the students and staff. They brought in 1,700 cupcakes during lunchtime and had a social event that evening for staff.

  • “It was like a family birthday with our students and staff,” said Heck. “So this has been building, with everything leading up to this coming Friday.”
(left) Elizabeth Brazel Mangum, Mark Forsman, Tonya Nunes, and Tisha Buchanan Fleet (right)

In preparation for the big day, Heck has been including little snippets of Choctaw history inside her parent newsletters that she sends out every Friday morning. She also invited School Board Member Linda Evanchyk to talk with Leadership students last week. Evanchyk is a Choctaw alum, who also taught at the high school before retiring.

“I think it’s wonderful to celebrate these milestones as it brings together different generations,” said Evanchyk. “Mrs. Heck called me in to speak to leadership students about why tradition is important and why we need to keep passing them on. I mentioned how it’s just unifying activities that bond us all together.”

Evanchyk added that whether you were in 1960’s, 1980’s or just graduated, it is those same traditions give you that sense of pride.

  • “I think it’s important for the current students to get to see those who come back, why it’s important and what they’re trying to capture,” she added. “When you come back for a reunion, you’re trying to capture a little bit of that wonderful feeling you had as a high school student and to see that the current students are also having that great experience.”

The place to be on Friday night

For Principal Heck, she remembers how important the 50th & 60th Anniversary celebrations were. As she puts it, she was “a young little teacher” during those milestones.

  • “I had been a teacher for barely 4 years at Choctaw when we celebrated our 50th,” she said. “And I was also here for the 60th celebrations.”

Being witness to the previous two decades, she knew that the 70th would be a big deal, which is why they have been spent months planning Friday’s events.

“Joe Etheredge Stadium in Fort Walton Beach will be the place to be on Friday,” she added. “We will be showcasing all of our traditions, the things that have long made Choctaw the Big Green Indians. That is everything from how we do our parade to how we recognize our Homecoming court. From the spirit songs to the headdresses of our Style-marchers. The sights and sounds of Friday night will be enhanced that much more in Joe Etheredge Stadium.”

Okaloosa Superintendent Marcus Chambers also knows how important Friday night will be for the Indians.

“Choctawhatchee High School has rich traditions that the students, employees, parents, community, and alumni work hard to maintain,” said Chambers. “From the fight song, Big Green Indian, written by their choral director in 1956, to the handmade headdresses their marching band, the Style Marchers, wear while performing, the Big Green Indian Nation bleeds green! Choctaw’s 70th Anniversary will be a fantastic event full of spirit and tradition for our students and all of the Choctaw community.”

For the alumni that just can’t get to stadium or live far away, special arrangements have been made to have the entire night live-streamed through Crestview Community Television.

  • “For Homecoming, we’re excited to welcome home alumni but to have the 70th celebrated at the same time, it’s really special,” she said. “Bring your kids, bring your grandkids, and let them hear, feel and smell everything that has to do with a Friday night in Joe Etheredge Stadium. This one will be extra special.”

About tickets

Tickets to the Friday night game will not be sold at the front gates. Attendees will need to purchase their tickets from GoFans online. You can click here to purchase the tickets.

It’s probably a good idea to purchase your tickets before arrival in order to speed up the check-in process.

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