By Kim Pederson
Special Contributor 
Baby Boom columnist

Class of 1976, who prepped for a pep fest back then, are mostly grandpas and grandmas now and far from the time of touchdown passes and high school trophies. Before publishing this article, I checked with a few grandpas to ensure they were cool with these buxom babes hitting the Press. “Go for it… great memories…. he** yes….” Face it, any guy brassy enough to wear a skirt and ribbon when he was seventeen probably didn’t become a shrinking violet.

It’s been a long time since I did a cartwheel. And even longer since I fit into my homemade cheerleading uniforms from junior high. The school didn’t provide junior high uniforms, but our moms knew how to sew or knew someone who did. And Butterick was a dime store away. 

My old cheer “outfits” still hang in a closet. Just seeing them brings back the smell of popcorn in the gym foyer, the sound of the pep band warming up, and the warmth of bonfires before homecoming. 

And pep fests.

Top to bottom are 1971 class members John Pfieffle, Mike Nettestad, Kermit Johnson, and Chuck Evenson.
Paul Bakken and Cindy Lange Strand braced for impact.

Pelican still has high school pep fests. Many towns have continued them in some way. But you should have seen them in orange and black.

There weren’t many girls’ sports to choose from back in the day, so cheerleading was a big deal. Squads of three to eight girls cheered at boys’ wrestling matches and football and basketball games. 

Pep fests were held on Fridays and always started with “Wave the Flag of Viking Victory,” cheerleaders from all sports leading the way. Cheerleaders planned skits, coordinated coaches and players to speak, and led cheers for a packed gymnasium. Unpredictability was the order of the day, and no one wanted to miss out. 

Jocks from the class of 1971 in mid-cheer.

Burned into the annals of pep fest lore was the skit where boys dressed as cheerleaders. The jocks donned ribbons and skirts and twirled and flitted around center court. Some took to it quite easily. 

Could this skit occur today? Or would fear of cameras everywhere, social media exposure, and college or career consequence stifle play? I think fear would win over fun. I hope I’m wrong. 

Times were different. Jonathan Livingston Seagull told us that we were “free to go where we wish and to be what we are,” and we took the bird at his word. We were as insecure as any teenager today, but you couldn’t tell by looking. 

The ‘70s was a culture of live and let live. Of liberation and rebellion. Of going your own way. 

We knew the lessons of war and the brutality of discrimination. We saw how hard our parents worked and understood what was ahead. So, we played hard. We acted out. We took the dare. We didn’t take ourselves seriously. And we became CEOs, lawyers, doctors, trade workers, business owners, and community leaders. 

Not bad for a bunch of ribbon-wearing twirlers. 

So, I will keep those cheerleading uniforms right where they are. Because it’s the laughter, I will remember, whenever I remember, the way we were. 

Kim Pederson

Special Contributor, Baby Boomer columnist

Editor’s note: Pelican Rapids High School graduate Kim Pederson’s regularly appearing column in the Pelican Rapids Press is a special feature, for the Baby Boom generation..

Pederson herself is a “Baby Boom” era product—Pelican Class of 1976.

Her reflections will appear in future editions of the Press.

Born and raised in Pelican Rapids, Kim continues to live in the area. Kim spent most of her professional life working at Otter Tail Power Company in Fergus Falls and was the manager of Market Planning at the time of her retirement.

She is a freelance writer and is currently working on a series of short children’s stories.

We encourage readers to connect with Kim at a special email address: