The 1980s was the official theme of Hempstead's homecoming parade on Saturday, but the unofficial message was unity as the town welcomed newcomers.
"This gets both cultures tighter; it's a good thing to bring everybody together," said Andre Singleton, aka the "Monster" when he was a Hempstead High fullback.
The Class of 1979 security officer was referring to the town's increasing popularity with Hispanics. "They get a chance to share each other's food and cultures."
The event, which drew a few thousand people, lets parents meet teachers. Reuben Molina, 42, referring to his son, said: "It's good to be together with the people he sees every day."
The homecoming queen, Maria Juarez, and her king, Kiondre Kenner, helped lead the floats -- one for each of the nine schools -- each with its own king and queen.
Junior Michael Jacksons, clad in black and wearing gold chains, joined young girls in vividly colored tutus and leggings to exemplify some of the '80s most memorable fashion.
The football team had two mascots, a big and little tiger. Whether one or both had left blue pawmarks on the high school's windows, which just about rattled when the band rolled its drums, was not divulged.
Activities for younger pupils have been added over the years, such as a petting zoo with sheep and goats. Many were drawn by the chance to see true hip-hop stars: Mr. Cheeks, a Queens native and member of the Lost Boyz who has a song on the Hempstead High album, hip-hop founder Kool Herc, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, but grew up in the Bronx, and Black Sheep, the noted Queens duo.
James Pearson, 58, standing with his granddaughters Destiny, 8, and her sister, Stanee, 6, and grandson Noah James, 4, said his favorite float bore President Barack Obama's name. "But they all seem nice to me," he said.
Ludlum Elementary School in Hempstead was one of the first U.S. schools renamed to honor the president. Another school bears the name of former Gov. David A. Paterson.
To Stephen Strachan of Roosevelt, the high school's new principal, the parade celebrates Hempstead's rich heritage. And "it's developing the whole child; you see the arts and athletics, everything students need to be successful," he said.