A band played by the ticket gate, greeting people as they streamed past. The music floated out across the field to mingle with the murmur of a hundred conversations and the smell of cooking meat from the food trucks.
At the far end of the football field, bouncy castles and games were set up, along with a waterslide that kids and adults alike took advantage of.
Pop-up pavilions lined the sides of the field, and under each one a team from the school sat together, talking to passersby, shaking hands, selling pizza or keychains to raise money.
At the 50 yard-line, the senior football players sat at a table signing autographs for kids and letting them throw footballs into a net.
At 8 p.m., the tents were swept away to clear the field.
All the players, old and young, gathered together on the side of the field while the parents and the brothers and sisters took their places in the stands.
One-by-one, the youth leagues walked across the field.
The teams that crossed the field were, in order: Lake City youth football, Norris youth football, Lake City Middle School football, Lake City cheerleaders (who performed a short cheer for the crowd), Norris Middle School football, Anderson County marching band, Anderson County High School (ACHS) golf, ACHS cross-country, ACHS soccer, ACHS volleyball, the ACHS dance team (who performed a fantastic choreography for the crowd), ACHS cheerleading, and finally the Anderson County High School football team.
Anderson County football has reached the playoffs in 23 seasons out of the 35 it has played since the school’s founding. They have, for the past two years, gone undefeated in their region.
After every team had walked across and stopped for the applause that was their recognition for all their hard work, their early mornings and late nights spent sweating and working, the youth sports came together off the wings to join the high-schoolers and the band, the players of today and the players of tomorrow, and the crowd in the stands sang “Sweet Caroline” while fireworks flew.
The crowd and the stands and the whole stadium hummed with a familial electricity so rarely found outside the world of sports, and served as an amazing reminder of why sports are so important not only to the kids that play them, but to the community at large.