The opening buzzer in the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on Monday night was a cue for it to get loud – very loud.
And with that, an annual tradition was back on after a pandemic hiatus.
With the Rubber Chicken on the line, students from Lewis and Clark High School and Ferris High School fought to out-yell, out-cheer and out-chant the other school in a battle that was as fierce in the stands as it was on the basketball court.
It was the first of four annual spirit contests this week at the Spokane Arena between rival high schools. A return of the basketball games to the arena was further sign of schools striving for normalcy after two years of COVID-19.
“It’s good to give the kids a chance to be kids again, give them a chance to do something fun that’s outside of school,” Lewis and Clark assistant principal Theresa Meyer said.
The Lewis and Clark students wore orange shirts and the Ferris students were sporting shirts in a bright fluorescent yellow as they jumped, shouted and gestured in unison. The students were packed into the center sections on each side of the court while parents and staff were scattered in the remaining seats.
The Rubber Chicken spirit game was canceled last year, a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year it was postponed from January to February as omicron cases surged last month. Ferris freshman Kaydence Snell said that when she heard the game was being postponed, she felt certain it would be canceled.
“I thought there was no way they’re going to do it,” Snell said.
However, she was happy to be wrong. “It’s been awesome so far,” she said.
Her friend Sadie Sohns, also a freshman, said she’s attended the game in the past and while it was a little different this year, she didn’t mind.
“It’s really just a way to have fun together,” she said.
Students, staff and parents had to meet a few requirements to attend the game, including wearing masks. They also were required to provide proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test. Each school handed out at-home COVID tests to unvaccinated students and if they tested negative, their parents could sign an attestation that the results were negative.
James Carter, assistant principal at Ferris, said his school received 500 tests and distributed around 300 of them. “We have a rising vaccination rate among our kids,” he said.
He was just happy that the Rubber Chicken game was back. His school chose a 1990s theme for the game and he dug out his old Ferris 1990 letterman’s jacket for the occasion.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “The kids are so excited. They’ve been so looking forward to this. It’s a step closer to normal.”
Meyer said she was proud of how her students were handling the COVID restrictions.
“Kids are all wearing their masks,” she said. “They’re doing what they should.”
She said it was wonderful to be back for the Rubber Chicken game.
Lewis and Clark parent Erica Chasse, who is an LC alum and a paraeducator at the school, said she was at the Rubber Chicken game in 2020.
“That was the last time we had the Rubber Chicken,” she said. “LC won, so that was great.”
Lewis and Clark parent Serina Varallo said her children play sports, but not basketball. “We are just coming to support,” she said.
She’s a veteran of several Rubber Chicken games and said she’s happy it was able to be held this year.
“It is beyond exciting,” she said. “This is a special experience for our kids to come together.”
The other three rivalries highlighted this week at the arena are University and Central Valley high school playing for the Stinky Sneaker on Tuesday. East Valley and West Valley high schools playing for the Golden Throne on Wednesday and Shadle Park and North Central high schools playing for the Groovy Shoes on Thursday.