Classic 1960s hits blared from a speaker behind Central Middle School as more than 150 East Grand Forks middle schoolers ran around the school's back lot, decked out in leather jackets and poodle skirts, enjoying snow cones and classic cars for the school's annual Outsiders Day on Friday, May 21.
The celebration was an opportunity for the seventh grade class to enjoy the end of the school year and the end of their studies of the iconic coming-of-age novel, The Outsiders.
The book hit close to home for many of Central Middle School teacher Amanda Adams' seventh grade language arts students.
"A lot of them get really emotionally connected to it," she said. "I had one student say, 'You know, Mrs. Adams, this is the first book I've ever cried about."
The 1967 book, written by by teen writer S. E. Hinton, follows a group of Oklahoma teens known as the greasers for their long, greasy hair, as well as their rivals, the socs, short for Socials, a group of wealthier teens from the west side of town. After the narrator Ponyboy and his friend Johnny, both greasers, are involved in a fight with the socs that goes too far, tensions quickly escalate between the two groups.
The school first held Outsiders Day in spring 2018. The following year, the event was cancelled due to weather, and last year, the event was cancelled due to COVID-19.
On Friday, about 150 seventh graders dressed up as their favorite characters from the books, played yard games and admired classic cars brought to the event by parents, grandparents and community members.
Seventh graders Lexi Ray and Aubrie Lee dressed in classic white tees and tied their hair up with red bandanas for the day. They said they didn't dress as any particular character, and instead dressed as "greaser girls" with their friends.
They agreed that the afternoon outside was a welcome chance to play yard games and relax with their friends.
"(We're) making new memories," Ray said.
Snow cones were also provided to the event by Nate's Snow Cones, a snow cone business opened by 11-year-old Nate Foss in 2018. Foss died in his sleep of an irregular heartbeat in June 2019, and would have been a seventh grader at Central Middle School this year.
Foss' mother, Mary, who was operating the booth on Friday, said that her son initially started the business as a way to save up to buy video games. The first summer he operated the booth, he wound up saving enough money to take his whole family to a Twins game.
The next year, before his death in June, he hoped to continue the business as a fundraiser to buy school uniforms to donate at the end of the summer.
Mary Foss said that it was tough being at the event with all of Nate's friends, but rewarding.
"It's hard, but at the same time it's great to see them smiling," she said.