Homecoming is a pretty big deal at high schools around the country.

At Whetstone High School, homecoming is a really big deal where it has evolved to become more than a football game with a spiffy halftime show by the marching band. It now includes a major parade and festival that provides a financial shot in the arm for the Parent Teacher Association.

This year's Whetstone High School Homecoming Parade and Festival is set for Friday, Sept. 21, with the parade starting at 5 p.m. The football game against East High School will begin at 7 p.m.

This is the 12th year for the parade and the third edition of the festival, which includes raffles, a silent auction and a live auction.

"The festival has really becoming an amazing event, something that the entire community looks forward to," Principal Janet Routzong said.

"It really is the primary driver of our budget," PTA President Tiffany Grinstead said. "We'll make 70 to 80 percent of what we'll make for the whole year from this event."

The raffle is for two tickets to the Ohio State-Michigan football game. Tickets are $5 each and the drawing will be at halftime of the Whetstone-East game. Live auction items, Grinstead said, include a $1,500 catered dinner from Bleu and Fig, four tires from AAA and use of a house near Yellowstone National Park for a week. Those participating in the silent auction will bid on Columbus Blue Jackets tickets, tickets to the OSU-Nebraska football game, gift cards and handmade items from local vendors.

"We've had some great folks come in on the silent auction and the regular auction," Grinstead said.

While the events aid the PTA financially, Routzong said this year the traditional homecoming dance will benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Assistant Principal Dawn Horne, one of two new administrators at Whetstone, came up with a theme for the dance of "Dreams Come True," Routzong said.

Horne also suggested creating a wishing well for the event, with the change tossed into it going to the principal's fund at the school.

What Horne, who came to Columbus from Cleveland, didn't know is that Whetstone has a connection with Make-a-Wish. Several years ago, Routzong said, incoming freshman Hailey Cannaday was diagnosed with bone cancer, and the foundation made her dream of swimming with Olympic great Michael Phelps a reality before she died her senior year.

"That was something that was really awesome that they did for one of our students, and we would like to give back to them," Routzong said.

The annual parade and festival, Routzong said, are part of making Whetstone and its feeder schools in Clintonville more a part of the neighborhood.

"There's no way we could do this without dozens and dozens of parents involved as volunteers," Routzong said.

The parade in particular benefits from efforts of longtime volunteer organizers, Grinstead said.

"One of the main reasons that it's been great for so long is that Susan and Marc Gaunce organize the parade," Grinstead said. "They ran it for years when they didn't even have a kid in school. Their commitment to the parade, which is kind of the centerpiece that makes the festival work, has been outstanding."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1