Snake Dance Once Again Makes Its Way Through Westfield

Students of Brocton and Westfield schools pose for a photo shortly before a Snake Dance in the village. The traditional snake dance and bonfire was revived for students. Photos by David Prenatt

WESTFIELD — Residents of Westfield who witnessed a 100-foot snake weaving its way through the downtown area, called out family members, snapped pictures and asked one another “What’s going on?”

The snake was actually comprised of dozens of high school students from Brocton High School and Westfield Academy and Central School who made their way from Moore Park to Welch Field where a bonfire was lit as part of school spirit week.

As the ‘snake” made its way through the streets, Westfield police officials blocked intersections to protect the students. Members of the Westfield Fire Department were on hand at Welch Field to light the bonfire.

Both traditions, the snake dance and the bonfire, have been revived after being absent from WACS homecoming celebrations for more than 20 years.

“Parents asked whatever happened to the snake dance and the bonfire,” said Ivana Hite, high school principal. So I thought, “Let’s see if we can do it.”

A member of the Westfield Fire Department lights a bonfire.

It wasn’t as difficult as Hite initially thought it would be, though it involved the whole community. Hite said she met with high school student government advisor, Ashley Carlson; village of Westfield recreation director, Andrew Webster; Village Administrator Vincent Luce; representatives from the Westfield police and fire departments; and, basically, “everybody who was going to be involved.”

“I’ve been begging Mrs. Hite to bring back the snake dance and bonfire to help show school spirit,” said WACS alumna Tricia Schuster. “They used to have the bonfire at the school and the juniors used to build it.”

Senior Kayla Nichols said: “I’m excited. It’s been a really long time since anything like this has happened. I think the last time was when my dad was in school.”

Nichols said she felt the revival of the traditions would help to increase school spirit. “Last year, a lot of students didn’t take part in Spirit Week,” she said. “Getting together all of these people is great because it helps everyone break out of their shells and have fun.”

Fellow senior Sarah Okerlund agreed. “I think there are a lot of kids who distance themselves from Spirit Week,” she said. “When there are events like this and their friends are going, it helps them get out there and take part.”

Student government advisor Ashley Carlson said that the response to the return of the snake dance and the bonfire was “touch-and-go at first.” However, more and more students got involved as the day drew closer.

“If feel like the kids are excited to bring back some of the traditions,” she said. “My goal is to let them take control of events like this and have fun doing it.”

Westfield seniors were responsible for coming up with a route that would be approved by village officials, Hite said. Senior Class President Jimmy Wolfe and his dog, Hans, led the dance, which threaded its way through Moore Park, up South Portage Street, across First Street, Union Street, Second Street, up Portage Street to Third Street, and to Welch field.

Wolfe, who is on the soccer team, said he plays with quite a few Brockton athletes. “This gives everybody a chance to have some time with Brockton before the (homecoming) dance itself,” he said.

Said Brocton Student Council advisor Mimi Joint: “I’m excited that Brocton was invited and it seems like the kids are really excited about it. They’re enthusiastic and willing to try new things.”