Few things herald the arrival of fall in the Swannanoa Valley like the sights, sounds and smells of football season.
While the first official day of autumn is still around a month away the Stampede in the Valley will bring all of the pageantry of football to Warhorse Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 22.
The gates at Owen High School will open at 5 p.m. for the kickoff of the upcoming fall sports season, according to event organizer Linda Tatsapaugh.
"Really the focus is the start of the football season coming up, which is also the start of the band season and the cheerleaders and dance team are a part of that too so all of those groups will be involved," said Tatsapaugh, who was the president of the band booster club last year. "We'll start with a pep rally at 5:30 (p.m.)."
Tatsapaugh, Warhorse head coach Nathan Padgett and band director Tyson Hamrick planned to hold the event at the start of the season last year, but work on the field prevented the Stampede from happening. This year the event is set for Aug. 22, which Thursday, Aug. 24 serving as the make-up day if there is rain.
Hamrick, who is entering his second season as the director of the Owen band after nine years in the same role at Owen Middle School, said his group will open the event with the national anthem.
"Just like a football game, when the band rolls out and does the anthem, we're going to simulate the opening of a game," he said. "I know they'll introduce the band and we may play a little bit of our sure, but we're going to do pep tunes and play the fight song as each of the (football) teams is introduced."
The band will also play of the school's dance team, which will perform during the Stampede as well.
"From the band's perspective this is a great way to get us out in front of people before we're really out in front of people," he said. "This gives me a chance to do things that you can forget to do, like make sure we know the fight song and have everything together."
If the band makes it sound like football season then the smell most closely associated with that time of year will float in from the concession stands above the bleachers, according to Tatsapaugh.
"The band also wants to showcase the new and improved concessions for the upcoming season," she said. "They'll have Social Pizza, which is local, and Chick-fil-A, which was really popular last year and Nathan's hot dogs."
It wouldn't really be a stampede without horses and beginning at 6 p.m. the Warhorse Youth Football and Cheer Mite and Termite teams take the field to practice. They'll be followed by a 7 p.m. Owen Middle School and possible Midget youth team practice before the junior varsity and varsity Warhorses take the field to practice at 8 p.m., according to Padgett.
"Bringing all the teams together helps us all to be on the same page and brings the football culture together in the Valley," he said. "We are all in this together and representing one identity and I think that's important."
The Stampede will be the only chance to see the Owen team in action in the Valley before they host rival Reynolds in their home opener on Friday, Sept. 1.
"This really gives everyone a chance to come out to the home field, check out all of the football teams here in the Valley," Padgett said. "There is a lot going on at Owen right now too, we have a new track, we have new LED lights up at the stadium and this will give people a chance to see all of that too."
The event will also give Owen football fans their first glimpse at a young team that Padgett says are "one of the best groups of overall players" as a coach.
"It's a great group of fine young men and they're committed to Owen football and we're excited to see that," he said. "As a coach that's rewarding to see that involvement and see them 'all in' so to speak."
The Stampede offers the community a chance to come out and support the hard work that the players have put in since last season, Padgett added.
"One thing we've always had is great support from the community," he said. "We're very appreciative of that we want to put a team out there every Friday night that our community can be proud of. That's our goal."