When fans from the Swannanoa Valley gather at Warhorse Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 23, there will be little doubt about what time of year it is.
The Stampede in the Valley brings athletes of all ages - from the Warhorse Youth Football and Cheerleading organization to the Owen High School band, cheerleaders and football team - together to officially kick off the football season.
The event is scheduled for 6 p.m., when the high school team, joined by the youth league players, will run onto the field. The annual event is designed to bring together the local football community to support all of the area’s football players.
“Our guys will practice before the Stampede,” Owen High School head coach Nathan Padgett said. “Then we’ll take the field with with the youth football players and they’ll hold practice on the field.”
There will also be face painting and a bouncy house, according to Padgett.
Around 100 football players and cheerleaders from the Warhorse Youth Football League will take part in the free event, according to league president Jason Putnam.
“It’s really a celebration of the football season and gives the little guys and girls an opportunity to spend some time with the older kids,” he said. “And it incorporates the high school band and dancers.”
The event will begin like a high school football game, with a performance of the national anthem and presentation of colors, Putnam said. From there, his players will take the field with their high school counterparts.
“It’s a lot of fun for the kids, and it really helps bring the community together,” he said. “They really look forward to this.”
The youth league consists of four age groups, but only three are filled this season, Putnam said. Each of those age groups will break off and conduct practice on different areas of the field.
Padgett's players will then help the younger players with their workouts.
"A lot of these kids come to watch our guys play," Padgett said. "So they look up to the high school guys and the high school guys like to help them out because they're future Owen players."
The high school team plays its first game of the season on Friday, Aug. 17 at home against Enka. The youth league's first games are the next day.
The Stampede in the Valley will be made up at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24 if rained out.
"Everybody is excited at the start of the football season," Padgett said. "This is a great way for us to all get together and celebrate that and all the work these kids put in."