Brother Joshua DiMauro has been in charge of the homecoming celebrations at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington for more than 40 years. But growing up in Brooklyn didn’t give him too much experience.
“I had no idea what homecoming was,” he said. “We didn’t have homecoming at [Bishop Ford Central Catholic High School].”
In 1974, he started at St. Anthony’s High School — which was an all-boys school in Smithtown at the time — as a math teacher. Two years later, he was appointed director of student activities, and planning the homecoming celebration and pep rally fell right into his lap.
“I had no idea how this was going to work,” he said. “I had no idea what floats were. It depended a lot on the ideas of the kids.”
So, DiMauro learned as he went along. He picked up on all of it quickly, until he ran into a slight issue.
“This was an all-boys school,” he said, “and I couldn’t figure out how to get a homecoming queen!”
DiMauro decided that he would interview girls from other Catholic schools on Long Island, and they would be in the running for the homecoming queen title alongside a St. Anthony’s king. He did this until 1984, when the school relocated to South Huntington and became co-ed.
The interview process has remained in place to ensure that the election didn't turn into a popularity contest. Students cannot run unless their average is an 85 or higher, and must be involved in extracurriculars and school activities. After the interviews, faculty and students decide on a set of nominations, and then the entire school votes to determine the winners.
As for the royal rides, that tradition has changed over the years. Students used to assemble their homecoming floats atop pickup trucks with large hitches on the back.
“Once we got new turf fields, we can no longer have heavy equipment on the fields,” said DiMauro. “So now, we have golf carts.”
Each class gets one golf cart to design and decorate, and the royal court members have their own, decorated by a separate committee of students. DiMauro added that the floats are more about school spirit, and there isn’t an overarching theme for each homecoming.
“There’s lots of black and gold glitter,” he said with a laugh.
When the school became co-ed, DiMauro said the design trends in the floats changed drastically.
“It’s become much more tame in that with an all-boys school, themes for floats would have been, ‘Flush them down the toilet’ or ‘Cut their heads off,’ ” he said with a chuckle. “This kind of stuff would be the themes of the various floats, whereas now they’re more positive things, like ‘Hooray for the Friars!’”
The annual pep rally — held right before football game — presents its own challenges. Herding 2,400 students into the gymnasium and keeping them entertained is just as difficult as it sounds.
That’s why DiMauro plans out a script with time markings down to the minute, and plenty of performances mixed in. The cheerleading team, kickline, step team, symphonic band, orchestra, and sometimes the show choir perform at the pep rally.
“That to me is the biggest challenge, but usually it works out,” DiMauro said, adding that the orchestra usually plays the “Darth Vader” music when he steps out.
He mentioned that the enthusiasm of the students has been especially prominent since the move from Smithtown to South Huntington many years ago. And if DiMauro’s attitude is any indication, that energy won’t die down anytime soon. St. Anthony's High School homecoming will be held Oct. 13, and until then DiMauro will be interviewing prospective royalty and assisting with the float builds.
“Once we came to this school,” he said, “the spirit of homecoming has amplified tremendously.”