Johnston High School’s Homecoming has never been bigger or better than it was Saturday.
Despite the day’s chilly temperatures, there were many memorable and crowning moments for members of all four classes, as well as the alumni and other spectators who at times formed a human tunnel along the annual parade route.
The school’s record books will show that seniors Carlos Fragoso and Lauren Campagnone were crowned the King and Queen of the 2019 Homecoming. Campagnone, in fact, followed in her older sister Jordan’s footsteps in securing the honor.
Moreover, the Panthers’ storied Homecoming history featured an upset of sorts in the float building competition, as the juniors captured first place by way of their colorful and creative entry. “Colossal Win,” which was done in white lettering with a Panther blue backdrop and Coliseum on the section float, was constructed aboard a Northeast Auto Body tow truck donated by Gary Salzillo.
In yet another striking surprise, the freshmen took second place for their entry called “End of the Lion,” which featured a locomotive engine carrying a Panther that was about to steamroll the day’s opposition, the Lincoln High School Lions.
The seniors took third place with “Great to be King,” while the sophomores’ float featured “Only if you had the nerve” as its theme.
“All four floats were impressive and well-done,” said Dr. Bernard DiLullo, superintendent of Johnston Public Schools. “It’s obvious our student put a lot of work and thought into the beautiful floats.”
Meanwhile, Jeff Cicchitelli, the Johnston Police school resource officer at Johnston High, expressed sentiment that was later reinforced by Lt. Steve Guilmette, assistant coordinator of Explorer Post 405.
Cicchitelli drove the parade-leading Johnston Police car because Chief Richard Tamburini elected to walk the parade route with a group of local leaders headed by Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena.
“I’ve never seen so many spectators at the start of the parade on Atwood Avenue,” Cicchitilli said. “For that matter, the crowd of spectators has to be the largest in quite some time.”
While Atwood Avenue was jam-packed with people, the same held true for parts of Hartford Avenue where families enjoyed the music provided by Johnston High School’s national award-winning Marching Panther Band and held up handmade posters saying “Go Panthers” and “Beat the Lions.”
Even the annual Alumni Breakfast, which was again prepared and served by the dedicated members of the Johnston Lions Club, had an overflow crowd inside the school’s cafeteria.
Later in the afternoon, the Panthers kicked off against the favored Lincoln High Lions and seemed to be on their way to a possible upset win by matching scores early, as head coach Joe Acciardo’s relatively young but inexperienced and spirited gridders erased two deficits.
However, two key Panthers – defensive stalwart Jake Martin and quarterback Hunter Remington – sustained injuries and did not return to the game, thus further helping the veteran Lions deny the hometown team a victory.
Overall, Homecoming 2019 will long be remembered as an overwhelming success and enabled Johnston High to continue its unique and storied tradition of being the only school in Rhode Island to have a townwide parade and float building competition among the classes.