The Tomato Bowl is home to a number of valued traditions for Jacksonville Indians. The train that passes by on the north end has been around as long as the stadium and games would not be the same without at least 4 trains passing by during football and soccer games, and even graduation ceremonies. Legend has it that an Indian victory is tied to how many trains pass by in the 1st quarter.
The walls are iconic. Visitors want to know "what that place is" and residents feel comforted by the Tomato Bowl watching over downtown and her walls seeming to carve out a safe space for all who enter (with the exception of rival teams).
In 2006, JHS senior Jeffrey Looney asked to do a project at the Tomato Bowl for his Eagle Scout project. Troop # 403, along with troop leader Doug Crouch and many of the scout's fathers, procured poles and flags to be displayed around the Tomato Bowl walls for home games. Heath & Heath Hardware, the Athletic Booster Club, and senior counselor Brenda Pierce and her husband all donated items to help make the project happen. The Student Council now has the task of placing 54 flags around the walls on game days, which takes over an hour to put up and an hour to take down. Most days, that means blue and gold, but occasionally the flags are American flags if honoring our first responders or a game is close to September 11. In October, the Tomato Bowl turns pink for the "Pink Out" game in honor of cancer awareness month and the flags are pink.
The most beloved tradition is the Flaming J. This has been a constant duty of the Student Council since the early 70's and the large J is wrapped, soaked, and finally lit during the playing of the school song. The J Crew oversees these tasks and it is quite the honor to light the Flaming J. This tradition signifies the burning spirit of JHS.
A long held role at Tomato Bowl is for a Boy Scout Troop to raise the American Flag prior to the National Anthem. At one home game each year, the JHS Senior Choir gathers on the sideline to sing the Anthem, including players, cheerleaders, and so many involved in the game itself.
The running of the flags. This tradition started with a single huge "J" flag run down the sidelines after each touchdown. The cheerleaders choose the Flag Crew and these 5 run flags now that spell out T R I B E while the fight song plays.
The Totem Pole has been in place since the Brown family built and installed it in 1962, It stands proudly on the front lawn of the Tomato Bowl and a tradition of the team lighting the pole follows each home and away game. A blue signifies a win and a white light a loss.
The cheerleaders, Cherokee Charmers, and JFIB (Jacksonville Fightin' Indian Band) all have their hallowed places at Tomato Bowl. The JFIB marches in single file from the back of the stadium to drums as they enter and the Cherokee Charmers march into their places with their 1, 3, 5, 7 count. Cheerleaders have many of the same chants and cheers from years past, including joining the band and drill team to the ever popular "Funky Beat".
The POWWOW is held in August prior to the start of school and is sponsored by the Athletic Booster Club. All athletic teams are introduced as well as the coaches. The coaching staff serves watermelon afterwards.
Senior Night is held during pre-game activities at the last home game of the season. All senior players, band members, cheerleaders, flag runners, and charmers are introduced along with their parents and families. As a last gesture, each senior band member places their band uniform hat on the sideline as they step up.
The downtown pep rally signifies Homecoming week and is held either directly in front of the Tomato Bowl or at the intersection of Main and Commerce Streets in downtown.
Graduation has not always been held in the Tomato Bowl, but in recent history it has become THE PLACE for seniors to graduate. The stadium is at full capacity for a graduation event, and is truly a sight to behold. Much preparation goes into getting the stadium ready for a JHS graduation, from setting up a stage and chairs, practice, getting graduates in place prior to and seated in order to praying for rain to hold off. It makes for an exciting and proud week in Jacksonville.