The Palio – A Unique Roycemore Tradition

Over the next few weeks, each division of Roycemore students will celebrate our longest-standing tradition, begun 105 years ago, The Palio! Roycemore’s Palio is believed to have come from our first Head of School, Julia Henry. She was inspired after having taken a trip to Italy with Rebecca Ashley in 1902 and attending Il Palio on July 2 in Siena, Italy.

The concept of Palio in Siena is that different contrada–what we would call districts or wards–compete with horses for the honor of winning The Palio. The winners receive the honor to fly the white Palio banner to acknowledge their success until the next year’s competitions.

Thirteen years after Henry and Ashley’s trip to Italy, Roycemore School was established with Julia Henry as Headmistress and Rebecca Ashley as Associate Principal of Upper School. They created many traditions as they built the school along with a Roycemore version of Palio. Roycemore’s Palio has always included a grand march with students representing different grades spiraling into the gym, led by the American flag, and followed by the Roycemore banner, The Palio banner, and individual class banners. Roycemore’s Palio Banner is a tasseled white banner that represents special effort and success.

Since the very first Palio, until this day, following the grand march all join together to sing The Star-Spangled Banner followed by the school song “Roycemore.” Palio has always involved a series of athletic events which have evolved over the years. For many years rope climbing was a tradition as well as walking for posture. Some years included bat-ball, clog dances, balance beam walking, and basketball competitions. “Swedish gymnastics” was also an early favorite. Over the last four and a half decades, tumbling became part of the Palio tradition, created and led by Roycemore’s own, Jessi Wunder. At the end of Palio, awards are given to recognize sportsmanship, a commitment to skill development, cooperation, and enthusiastic attitudes. The events of the day lead to a grand finale, the announcement of the winner of the Palio, which is as highly anticipated today as it was over 100 years ago. Everyone listens intently for the announcement and then the gymnasium fills with cheering and applauding upon learning which grade has been selected.

In order to prioritize the Health and Safety of our community, divisions will be performing at different times during the next couple of weeks. This Thursday, Lower School students will gather for their Palio performance at 6:00 pm. Thursday’s Palio event will be the first in-person Palio since 2019. Next Wednesday, May 18, the Early Childhood Division will have its own version of Palio as well. One of the wonderful traditions is that the senior class will attend and present their class banner to the kindergarten class who will be assigned that banner all the way through until they graduate in 2034! The Middle and Upper School divisions will compete in The Palio competition on Thursday, May 24th at 7:30 pm. We hope you will join us for this beloved Roycemore tradition! Masks will be required for all attendees.

We are thrilled to welcome everyone back for this special event. Roycemore has many traditions and Palio occupies a unique place in our community. It is an opportunity to give all students a chance to demonstrate their skills in physical education and tumbling. We are proud of their achievements and I have no doubt that you will enjoy the program.

In partnership for the education of your student,

Adrianne Finley Odell

Head of School