Homecoming traditions enliven Marfa with Shorthorn spirit 

Queen candidate Alexis Gonzales waves to spectators from the back of a car during the Marfa ISD homecoming parade. Gonzales was crowned 2022 Homecoming Queen the next evening before the game. Photos by Maisie Crow.

MARFA — Homecoming court candidates sporting formalwear and mums, underclassmen gripping bags of candy, proud parents, and Marfa ISD staff scrambled last Thursday evening as they gathered in front of the high school to line up for the annual homecoming parade. 

Not a single motor vehicle lay bare; silver streamers, purple and white balloons and glittery homemade signs decorated car doors and bumpers as homecoming court nominees, dressed to the nines, hopped up onto hoods for the rowdy ride down to the courthouse. 

While awaiting parade take-off, older students idled in the parking lot, blaring party music from their car speakers. Senior Juan Bautista sat, more quietly than most, in the back of a truck he embellished with posters and balloons to support his campaign for homecoming king while other cars assembled.  

“It’s not much. I tried my best to blow up the balloons, but almost all the balloons popped,” Bautista laughed. “But I’m happy that I did it.” 

For Bautista, who grew up in town, this year’s homecoming was bittersweet, the culmination of many he’s experienced in the past, only now he was participating for the final time as a Marfa student. Throughout his high school career, Bautista has participated in cheer, basketball, the arts and more. 

Senior and queen candidate Ummi Chanez, busy with parade preparations and the subject of her mother’s many photographs, stopped for a brief moment to speak with The Big Bend Sentinel about being a part of the Class of 2023. She said she was looking forward to the performance of the senior skit taking place later that evening and to wrapping up her sports career, which has included four-year stints in cross-county, volleyball, basketball and more. 

“It’s just fun being on the [homecoming] court with my friends,” said Chanez. “I’m excited to have my last season for sports, and of course want to end it off on a strong note.” 

Ulises and Damián Estrada toss out candy from the back of a pickup truck during last Thursday’s parade. Photo by Maisie Crow.

The procession eventually took off to excite its viewers with handfuls of candy, colorful class floats, and a soundtrack consisting of “Tití Me Preguntó” by Bad Bunny, “Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee and “U can’t touch this” by MC Hammer. The Get Go staff rode in a banana-theme truck which displayed a “Get Go goes bananas for Shorthorns” sign. Junior duchess Fernanda Rivera rode gracefully atop the hood of an 18-wheeler. The evening then concluded with the performance of the senior skit and burning of the “M” back at Martin Field. 

At Friday night’s homecoming game, the Shorthorns faced off against the Sierra Blanca Vaqueros, with retired Coach Jay Foster lending his voice as announcer. Smoke filled the air around the concession stand as the Marfa Shorthorn Boosters grilled burgers and slung football game fare. Before kick off, Alexis Gonzales and Nathan Peña were crowned homecoming queen and king, and posed with their bouquets and sashes for photos with their families. Nayar Flores was elected as prince and Emily Hernandez as princess. 

Gonzales, who gave out cupcakes, cookies and other sweets each day at lunch as a part of her homecoming queen campaign, said she was grateful to her fellow students for voting for her and the whole experience felt surreal, almost like the plot of a movie. 

“I love all my friends in MHS, and I’m so thankful that they voted for me and that I have been the best person I can be, the nicest I can be, to have the honor of people voting for me,” said Gonzales. “I feel like senior year is already going fast!” 

Peña, too, was appreciative of the votes he received, and said his senior year was shaping up to be very memorable. As the only senior on the football team, he had the support of many students in his role as school royalty. 

“[Being homecoming king] makes me feel good about how I interact with people, that they’d vote for me,” said Peña. “It’s something I’ll remember for a while, being MHS homecoming king.” 

Queen candidate Lesly Torres descends the stairs towards the football field after Thursday’s parade. Photo by Maisie Crow.

After the crowning of the homecoming court, the Shorthorn stampede ran out to honking and music from the visiting Presidio High School band to begin the game against the Vaqueros, who ultimately beat the Shorthorns 54 to 6 via mercy rule nine minutes into the third quarter. 

Football Coach Arturo Alferez said despite the tough loss, the football program remained optimistic about the season. The varsity football team is made up of more freshmen and underclassmen playing new positions than normal, so is experiencing growing pains, he said. 

“We’re getting better. We’re learning, and I know sometimes it doesn’t show, it doesn’t reflect on the score,” said Alferez. “But when we go back [to review] film and we see the little things that we’ve been teaching, it reflects on the progress.” 

Some of the game’s highlights included junior Marco Ruiz completing a touchdown and a receiving pass just under 100 yards. Junior Dustin Martinez, who is new to the position of quarterback, also threw his first touchdown. 

This Monday the team was busy watching film from Friday’s game, exercising in the weight room and rehabbing injuries ahead of their next game against New Mexico’s Animas High School this Friday. Alferez said moving forward he intends to coach his players on synchronizing as a team, defensive blocking schemes and learning more versatile pass plays, as well as being more confident in themselves and their skills on the football field.  

“We just have to be a little more aggressive on the field,” said Alferez. “I know we’re young, I know, you’re a young team, but I’m gonna tell you that when you make a tackle and you do it by yourself on an open field, you build confidence. But it takes time. You just can’t go one day to the weight room and expect to build muscle in one day.” 

The Shorthorns’ valiant efforts on Friday night were aided by the Presidio High School band, a group of around 35 students who wore Marfa T-shirts and wielded brass instruments, filling Martin Field and the spectator stands with the familiar, upbeat sound of a true marching band. The band also performed a half time show and marched into an “M” formation to honor their neighboring district.

The Presidio High School Band traveled to Marfa to perform at Friday’s game. The band learned MISD’s fight song, and both schools saw it as a collaboration given that Marfa lacks a band and Presidio a football team. Photo by Maisie Crow.

Molly Ferguson Rodriguez, Presidio High School band director, said the collaboration was a positive, fun experience for her players and allowed them to gain experience marching and performing at a football game, something they aren’t familiar with because Presidio High School doesn’t have a football team. The band worked quickly to learn Marfa’s fight song — which Rodriguez admitted was a fairly challenging number — mastering the ditty in two to three weeks ahead of homecoming. 

“We wanted to go to impress, that’s for sure. Not just like, ‘Oh, we kind of know the song.’ It was more like we want to get there and play it well,”  said Rodriguez. 

The band performed “Las Nubes” by Tejano artist José “Little Joe” Hernández, which they first premiered at this year’s Marfa Lights Parade, earning them the approval of the older generations at the game. Despite having never served as a real marching band accompanying a football team before, the group got in the groove, keeping time with the pace of the on-field action and rousing the crowd when a dose of optimism was needed. 

“Especially when the mascot came out and we started joining the cheerleaders with their cheers everything mellowed out,” said Rodriguez. “We started to really enjoy ourselves and try to get the crowd pumped up.”  

The Presidio High School band is looking forward to potentially returning for another Marfa football game later on this season, said Rodriguez. The experiment was a lesson in collaboration, she said, and a reminder of the importance of putting a competitive mindset aside and prioritizing inter-community support in an otherwise isolated environment. 

“For me, as a teacher and as a musician, my goal is [to keep doing] stuff like [Marfa homecoming] where it’s really meaningful to the community and not just all about competitions,” said Rodriguez. 

Correction: The Marfa Shorthorn Boosters were running the concession stand at the Homecoming Game not the PTO. We regret the error.