A Night in the Life of the Midnight Riders

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A front lawn is covered in toilet paper: the trees, the bushes, the railings. Every other house on the block is clean and undisturbed. This one house has a band of 20 girls dedicated to throwing toilet paper, writing on cars, decorating the sidewalk with chalk, and laughing while doing so. The September wind is strong, the trees are still wet from day rain, and the toilet paper isn’t sticking how it should. The house takes 15 minutes to TP because of this, even with so many girls.

It’s 10:05 p.m. on a Thursday night, and these girls have about seven more houses to hit. They’re already tired from a long day at school and practice or clubs, but they’ll stick the night through until midnight. It’s the Homecoming game the following night, and these houses aren’t picked at random and these girls aren’t just any girls.

Senior and junior football players’ houses are TP’d every home game by the Midnight Riders, a spirit squad of some sort. It’s a tradition passed down every year to select junior and senior girls. Every Friday morning of a home game day, the football players step outside of their houses to see their trees decorated in toilet paper and their sidewalks covered in chalk signatures of the Midnight Riders.

Midnight Riders is an outside-of-school organization that has been going on for decades. Each year, two captains are chosen by the previous year’s captains. This year, it’s seniors Maddie Simkins and Ashorena Michael. 

Members of the Midnight Riders.
Members of the Midnight Riders.

“As a captain for Midnight Riders, Ashorena and I were responsible for plenty of things: We had to pick the 40 girls, get everyone’s nicknames, order the jerseys, plan the rides, and most importantly, call the parents of all of the football players. We have to make sure the parents give us consent so it’s okay to TP the houses. It’s a lot of work, but in the end it’s worth it,” Simkins said.

The 30 seniors and 10 juniors all meet at Walmart around 9:00 p.m. before each ride. They stock up on toilet paper and begin their night of TP-ing.

“It’s a great experience, and not a lot of people get to do it, so it makes us all feel special that we are a part of an event like this,” Michael said.

At some houses the girls get surprised with cookies, brownies, and other treats by the football players’ families.

“Every Thursday night, after I get home from volleyball, I start right away by hitting the oven,” sister of football player Matt Galanopoulos, sophomore Sam Galanopoulos said. “I get all the ingredients together and make brownies for the riders. I do it for three reasons: 1.) I love to bake and I’d like to think I’m good. 2.) I love the girls so they deserve a treat for all the work they do, and 3.) I get to eat my amazing leftovers. Overall, it’s really about the nice, feel-good feeling and just lightens the mood for the big game the next night.”

Niles West alumna and math teacher Kathie Kajmowicz was a Midnight Rider as well as her sister. When Kajmowicz, who graduated in 2001, was a student, they did many of the same things as Midnight Riders are doing now. However, the riders weren’t as exclusive as they are now. Only junior and seniors were qualified, but anyone that wished to TP or bake for the team were invited.

“Our problem was that parents didn’t want us to TP because of the weather with us starting school later. It was cold, it was rainy most nights. So when that would happen, we’d bake for them or put balloons outside,” Kajmowicz said.

Kajmowicz gave some insight into why Midnight Riders are not school-affiliated. When her older sister was a rider, they didn’t ask for permission from parents. Riders were an anonymous group made mostly of Pommers, but no one was supposed to know who they were. Some parents would actually call the cops on the Riders back then. To prevent this from happening so often, captains of the Midnight Riders were charged with the responsibility of asking permission in advanced to football players’ parents. This change also cut down the amount of football players the Riders hit every night.

Last year was the first year the Midnight Riders got caught up by the self-named “Midnight Wetters.” The Wetters are a group of unidentified boys that pop up at the football players houses while the Riders are working. The Wetters’ goal is to keep the Riders on their toes, attacking them with water guns, silly string, even pie.

“The ride before this years homecoming game, the Wetters took it to the next level,” senior Jenny Pineda said.

The Riders were in the middle of TP-ing senior Thomas Lappas‘s front lawn when the Wetters came. The Wetters had been biding their time in the bushes of neighbors’ houses across the street. When the Riders seemed busy and vulnerable, they came out running and screaming with flour, eggs, pie, olive oil, and cake. The Riders had eggs of their own, but weren’t as equipped as the Wetters and ran, screaming. Girls got pied in the face, Wetters were tripped, and neighboring houses had the debris all over their lawns.

“There is oil all over the driveway, egg and flour, and I threw out several jugs,” Cynthia Lappas, mother of Lappas, said.

Despite the mysterious attacks, the Midnight Riders enjoy coming together and getting the team psyched for a game. Some Riders even enjoy the attacks, despite of damaged (but washable) clothing, because they claim it’s the most fun part of the night.

“My favorite part about Midnight Riders is the fact that girls in the senior grade come together for the sole purpose of trying to boost spirit among the football players and Niles West. We even have parents who love the whole idea of Midnight Riders,” Pineda said.