PRINCETON — It was more than a red letter day.

For true-blue fans of Princeton native Jackie Young, Saturday was a red, white and blue — and gold medal day to celebrate the homecoming of the county’s first gold medal Olympian.

The Broadway strip and downtown square was full of posters, banners, flashing signs, and countless waving U.S. flags as fans greeted Young and her family in a homecoming escort through the city.

Young and her sister Kiare rode through town on Princeton Fire Territory’s ladder truck. It’s the third such trip for them. They made the ride for a 2015 state girls basketball championship with teammates, and Young rode with her sister when she and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish women nabbed a NCAA national championship in 2017.

Saturday’s trip commemorated Young’s role as a member of the USA women’s 3x3 women’s basketball team that captured the first-ever gold medal in the sport at the Tokyo Olympics last week.

Princeton fans spread the Olympic fever at a 3 a.m. watch party and the 8 a.m. Wednesday gold medal game at Princeton Theatre and Community Center, and the City of Princeton quickly arranged for a homecoming escort planned Saturday.

When Young touched down at the Evansville airport Friday afternoon, family and a small group of friends created an emotional surprise for her when they lined up outside the airport with patriotic gear, chanting “USA” and “JACKIE YOUNG” to welcome her home.

Princeton got a downpour of rain Saturday morning, but the weather cleared up for the 4 p.m. homecoming escort. Mayor Greg Wright and Princeton Common Council members rode in police squad cars with Princeton Police officers to escort the PFT truck carrying the Young sisters. Young waved to the crowds, wearing her Olympic gold, getting cheers across town.

The fire truck was followed by a Sully’s Towing and Recovery flatbed truck carrying members of her family, and fire departments from Columbia Township and Buckskin, and the Gibson County Sheriff’s Office joined in the parade to show their support for the Gibson County Olympian.

After two trips through town, Young stopped on the square for short visits with fans before leaving to greet youngsters at the Princeton Parks and Recreation back to school Backpack Bash at Lafayette Park.

Prior to getting the surprise call to join the USA Olympic 3x3 team, Young committed to appear at the event as a co-sponsor with Puma sportswear, which donated around 250 backpacks.

When Young arrived in Princeton Friday she and family members and other volunteers stuffed the backpacks with school supplies.

And Saturday, when she arrived at the park, a throng of fans was waiting. Backpack Bash organizer Jess Denbo had an emotional moment when she presented a photo montage of Young’s Olympic achievement, reflecting on Young’s impact as a role model to young people.

Fans stood in line and Young obliged, signing, among other things — basketballs, t-shirts, notebooks, backpacks, and a copy of The Daily Clarion.

“You’re beautiful,” smiled the mother of one of Young’s classmates, as Young signed a seventh grade yearbook page of her class.

The day was a big one for Princeton, but the evening continued with more fans greeting Young as she rode with her uncle Jeffrey in a truck around the dirt track at Haubstadt’s Tri-State Speedway, cheered on by fans that night.

Young’s WNBA Las Vegas Aces resume their action Aug. 15 against the Washington Mystics. Her team is in Indianapolis Aug. 28 for a noon bout with the Indiana Fever.

 

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