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Paul VI's last Fairfax Rally in the Alley

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The first of the pregame celebrations known as Rally in the Alley began with just a bag of potato chips and the promise of camaraderie. In 1998, Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax was looking for a way to increase school spirit and get students out to the football games, said Assistant Principal Eileen Hanley. So they held a free gathering in one of the school’s back alleys and laid out a couple of snacks. 

But each year, the student government embraced the event more and more, said Hanley. At the last Rally in the Alley held in Fairfax Nov. 1, there was mac and cheese, Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets and a rainbow of soda choices in plastic cups. Popular music was blasting through the speakers. Students road a mechanical bull and whacked a bouncy ball on a mini trampoline in a game called Spikeball. The teenagers danced, took selfies and chatted with one another before the last home football game of the year.

Students dance at the last Rally in the Alley at St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax Nov. 1. ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

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 That night’s theme was blackout, and the students were darkly clad primarily in black Paul VI jackets, sweatpants and the VI Man Spirit Club T-shirts. Of all the theme nights, seniors Clement Greco and Frank Paquette agree that the Breast Cancer awareness pinkout is the most fun, as people who don’t own a lot of pink clothes go all out on accessories. “I like seeing the entire community together all dressed up,” said Greco. “(Tonight’s) the last time we’ll get to be out here and it's a tradition.” 

Hanley loves going to the homecoming Rally in the Alley, filled with alumni and their children, current students and several tempting food trucks. But she still fondly remembers the first rallies. “I'm sentimental about those early ones because it was starting something big, a tradition. The school didn’t have any traditions at the point,” she said. “We always stress PVI family, and having the meal and all that is very much like family.”

Students line up for chicken nuggets at the last Rally in the Alley at St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax Nov. 1. ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

LR RITA1“I love that it’s a safe place they can gather and hang out as friends and sometimes even out of their friend zone,” said Principal Tom Opfer, who graduated from Paul VI in 1996 before Rally in the Alley was started. “It's a great opportunity for the students to come celebrate community.”

The Nov. 1 rally was the last time the celebration was held on the strip of blacktop wedged between the football field bleachers and the school’s brick wall. But the school plans to continue the celebration at its new campus next fall. There are a lot of outdoor spaces they could hold the event, but not a lot of alleys. Still, said Hanley, “It will always be Rally in the Alley.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019

@ZoeyMaraistACH