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‘Small-town’ Kerman goes ‘Big’ for Tom Hanks-inspired homecoming

Tom Hanks sends a video message for Kerman High's homecoming

Actor Tom Hanks sends a personalized video message to Kerman High and its Tom Hanks-themed homecoming. (video Eric Paul Zamora).
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Actor Tom Hanks sends a personalized video message to Kerman High and its Tom Hanks-themed homecoming. (video Eric Paul Zamora).

Thousands gathered in the Kerman High School stadium Friday night to celebrate that longstanding tradition of homecoming, made anew this year with a unique theme drawing national attention: Tom Hanks.

Kerman High used Hanks’ movies as class themes and even invited the Academy Award-winner to join them.

Homecoming class themes Seniors: ‘Forrest Gump’ Juniors: ‘Toy Story’ Sophomores: ‘Big’ Freshmen: “A League of Their Own’

He declined because of a project he is working on. But the movie star did the next best thing by sending a seven-minute video. To screaming cheers from eager students, the short film debuted on an inflatable screen set up in the middle of the football field. Hanks gave students a backstage pass into the everyday life of an actor. He took them on the set of his newest film, “The Circle,” with special guest appearances by actress Emma Watson and writer David Eggers.

“When you look back on this a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, you’re really going to realize how special what we did here was,” said Kerman High leadership coordinator David Bakholdin. “We’re a small town in the middle of nowhere California, and because we came together as a community, we were able to gain the attention of the world’s largest and most popular actor.”

Former Kerman High principal Jim Volkoff said the night was a testament to students’ hard work.

“The atmosphere is crazy,” Bakholdin said. “We had the blimp out here … and it almost brought a tear to my eye.”

School-week activities leading up to the big game against Chowchilla included dress-up days, building floats with themes based on films starring Hanks: “Forrest Gump” for seniors, “Toy Story” for juniors, “Big” for sophomores and “A League of Their Own” for freshmen.

At the game, students had an opportunity to take photos with Hanks look-alike Gregg Deslauriers, a Kerman High English teacher.

But the main event was clear: the short video dedicated to Kerman High and made by Hanks himself.

“Tom Hanks worked for us on so many levels,” Bakholdin said. “A lot of our homecoming themes for the floats ended up being movies anyways, so it was a way for us to give kids a good theme to work with; it allowed us to tie in with social media because a lot of kids are on social media. He’s a very personable guy, just a cool dude. It worked with him and I don’t think it would work with any other celebrity out there.”

How cool? Hanks even donated an old typewriter, an Olivetti Lettera 35, that he signed “with respect” to the students of Kerman High. Bakholdin said the school will put it on display in a trophy case.

Bakholdin said that the idea to have a Hanks-themed homecoming came out of left field – just like many of the star’s films. And like a box of chocolates, Bakholdin didn’t know what he was going to get.

We’re a small town in the middle of nowhere California, and because we came together as a community, we were able to gain the attention of the world’s largest and most popular actor.

David Bakholdin, Kerman High leadership coordinator

“It was an epiphany,” Bakholdin said. “It was like ‘Doc’ in ‘Back to the Future’; I was hanging the frame and slipped on the toilet thinking of the flux capacitor and it was kind of the same thing. It popped into my head. Ten years I’ve been doing this and this has been the only good idea I’ve ever had. The students bought it from minute one.”

Senior class president Taylor Yates said he was honored to represent one of Hanks’ most iconic characters, Forrest Gump. “He’s such a good actor, all of his work is amazing, but more than that, he’s a good person. We chose him because we know he would love this kind of stuff, he’s so humble, and even to just make a video for us is amazing.”

Yates acted in character throughout the night – tan suit, white tennis shoes and all. (He said he left his box of chocolates prop at home in the refrigerator.) And he took on Forrest’s Southern drawl: “I ran a lot, I run through a lotta shoes.”

Yates added, “I like to think I’m a little bit like Forrest Gump. I may not be as slow sometimes as him, but I’m a Southern kind of person, I love Southern food, and that movie has always touched home with me.”

Megan Ginise: 559-441-6614

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