Evie Parks/Rider Media
“From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. And from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” – Author Unknown
This is a quote that perfectly describes Rider High School, the ROHO Spirit, One Family, One Team, Rider/Old High Week and all of the traditions that go with it.
Since day one of this school, the faculty and students at Rider knew they wanted it to be a special, unique place. Breaking off from “THE high school” and all of the success and greatness that had been done there, the Raiders (faculty and students) wanted to blaze their own trail, have their own identity and make their own history.
Being the new school was all about being new. The Raiders didn’t want to copy what was done across town, and while having the utmost respect for where they came from, they were determined to be unique. Things like the line in the alma mater — “the sons and daughters of her kindred”– were included to serve as a reminder of the fact that Rider was born from WFHS, while at the same time new traditions were being created to set Rider apart.
Traditions are things that bind us together. They are shared experiences that connect one group of Raiders to another. They separate who we are and what we are about from other groups or schools. They don’t exclude or make us better than anyone else, and they aren’t created overnight. They are organic shared experiences that become part of the heritage of who we are as a group.
Many of our most treasured traditions were not here at the beginning. Many of our first alumni never experienced them, but now embrace them as part of their history as well. One such tradition is one of our greatest, most unique traditions and that is The Happening.
So, what is The Happening?
The Happening is the original embodiment of One Family, One Team; many, many years before we ever said or defined OFOT. The Happening is the night that we all come together as Raiders, put our trash talk about Old High aside, celebrate all that is great about Rider, focus on us and come together to reflect about what it means to be a Raider. We commit to being a collective force to show up on Friday morning in silence to support our school on the way to victory over our crosstown foe that night.
As the story goes, the original Happening (fall of 1973) grew from a very grassroots, unplanned event of students, led by members of the band, that gathered and marched around the track; chanting, cheering and carrying signs.
Afterward, they creeped into the gym in total silence while the cheerleaders gathered up the football team. The cheerleaders then led the team by candlelight into a darkened and silent gym.
As the team made their way to the middle of the floor, the Raiders who filled the stands, illuminated the gym one-by-one by turning on their flashlights. The team was amazed to see the student body filling the stands in support of them. It had been four long years since the Raiders had beaten the Coyotes.
That night the team and student body heard some inspirational speeches from alumni, the choir sang the traditional “Beautiful Savior” and everyone concluded the night all singing the alma mater. The next night the Raiders went on to defeat the Coyotes 18-7. Not only that, The Happening became a tradition, and the Raiders defeated the Coyotes seven years in a ROHO!
Over the years, The Happening changed and evolved. It was no longer a surprise event to the team, the parade went away and at one point in the late ’90s the school administration halted The Happening all together.
When I accepted my job as head band and orchestra director in 2006 and came back to my alma mater, one of the first conversations I had with students was about “traditions.” By that point things like The Happening had been gone so long, that they didn’t even know what it was. What a shame!
The Happening was older than the term ROHO and we had just let it go. It was a great opportunity for us to build community and bond over our shared and unshared experiences of being a Raider. So, in 2006, we brought back The Happening. We brought back the parade portion and that year even had fireworks. Much of the school was skeptical about it until the night that it happened. It was a huge success and has found its way back to one of the traditions that makes Rider special and is also a big part of our rivalry week.
We again come together in this celebration of all things Rider. Yes, some of it is odd; like filling a gym in silence and darkness. But it is an amazing time to find what unites us which is the spirit of our school.
We know that our school isn’t perfect. We know we can always be better. But on the night of The Happening, we celebrate what is great about ROHO. We celebrate the Black and Gold. We celebrate the ugly building that stands at 4611 Cypress that has been filled with amazing students and teachers for the last 61 years.
So on Thursday night, I invite you to come celebrate all things that are Rider at the parade, then fill the gym in silence and let the ROHO spirit glow with your light. Protect our traditions and rep ROHO.
RIDE ON HONORABLE ONES!