The big Islip High School homecoming celebration was approaching, and senior class president Joey Lorenzoni found himself smack-dab in the middle of a whirlwind week of float-building, needing more help than ever. As tradition goes, the seniors are the only class allowed to build their float off-campus, and they set up shop at the home of Kris McDonald, the Islip football team’s kicker.
“There’s a few main people who do student government all the time,” said Lorenzoni, 17. “They’re always involved, so it was just us five. We got to Kris’ house at like 3 o’clock, and we were there until 8 almost every day.”
This year’s homecoming theme was storybooks, and the seniors got busy constructing a larger-than-life version of Clifford the Big Red Dog, using pinched crimson-colored tissue paper, some cardboard, plenty of wood, chicken wire and crinkled-up newspaper for stuffing.
The feat would require several sets of hands, and Lorenzoni knew exactly what to do.
“I wanted to get other people involved who’ve never done it, because it’s the last year we’re gonna be able to do it,” he said. “So when it was just us five, I started calling people, some that I don’t really ever call, so it was a little weird!”
Lorenzoni called several classmates, promising lots of fun. As president he was required to be at the float build all week (and that meant staying up until 1 a.m. every day to finish homework). Just as they were nearing the end of the long process, one particular evening brought in a crowd.
“It was getting late,” Lorenzoni said. “And then 20 people -- out of nowhere -- came! And I was like ‘Oh OK, everybody’s coming!’ That was pretty cool.”
Lorenzoni has been building homecoming floats with his class since he was in ninth grade, and said he was always faced with the same challenge.
“Time management, definitely,” he said. “Because it’s so crazy to build these huge, fantastic floats in five days. And then there’s other extracurriculars, family stuff and homework on top of it. It’s really a wild week.”
He reflected on the homecoming floats of the past with a big smile. “Our first year we did Lightning McQueen and that looked really cool. We did a boat our second year -- it didn’t look that great -- and then last year we did Spider-Man, which was awesome.”
Along with Clifford, the tales represented on the floats were “The Magic School Bus,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
Looking at the finished product before the parade on Saturday, Lorenzoni was proud, but still busy with last-minute tweaks. He made sure all of the seniors signed their names on the back of the float before they headed down Main Street in Islip.
After graduation, Lorenzoni plans to study environmental science and chemistry at either Stony Brook University or SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. His advice for the next senior class president is simple: Stay involved.
“I know as president there’s a lot of stuff going on, but just try to make new friends who you wouldn’t normally hang out with,” he said.
As for the Big Red Dog that traveled down Main Street, Lorenzoni admitted it wasn’t his favorite storybook as a kid.
“My favorite was ‘The Giving Tree!’ ” he said with a laugh.