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Students paint holiday cheer downtown

Instead of sitting in a classroom on Tuesday, Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School fourth-grader Isaiah Mahome painted the windows of downtown Suffolk businesses with more than 30 other elementary school students.

The 10-year-old said he likes bells, which is why he took the yellow, red and green paint and brushed his own festive bell on one of the windows at Baron’s Pub.

“I like being able to paint,” he said, “and I don’t have to do school.”

For the 17th year of the annual tradition, more than 60 talented art students from Suffolk schools are sketching business windows Tuesday and Thursday with a “Jingle Bell Rock” theme, according to Lesa McNamara with the school division.

Teams of elementary school students came to Main Street on Tuesday to paint windows at BB&T, Wells Fargo, SunTrust Bank, Baron’s Pub, Plaid Turnip and two vacant storefronts. Middle and high school students on Thursday will paint One Past 7 — Artist Loft, Brighter Day Café, Bank of America, Serendipity Salon, Subway, UnCork’d and the Suffolk News-Herald.

McNamara said 15 windows were made available this year, and that the snowmen, Christmas wreaths and other festive creations will help get residents into the holiday spirit before the Suffolk Holiday Parade this Saturday, she said.

“We try to paint before the parade so we can show off our talented art students, and the shopkeepers love it because it makes their businesses more festive,” she said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Plaid Turnip owner Ed Beardsley said the artwork simply makes downtown a more exciting place.

“I think it’s awesome,” Beardsley said. “I’m a big supporter of every kind of art. It’s the least (I can do) to have my windows be a showcase for them.”

Oakland Elementary School students were at his restaurant on Tuesday with numerous designs they made themselves to add musical, holiday flair to the storefront.

“I never painted on a window before,” said Oakland Elementary fifth-grader Kailey Holbrook, 10. “I’m looking out the window and seeing cars go by as I’m painting.”

At SunTrust Bank, Hillpoint Elementary School students painted a rock-and-roll Santa posing on an amplifier with a guitar on his back.

“Everybody is doing an instrument, and we put a guitar on his back because he’s rocking out to the music,” said Hillpoint Elementary fifth-grader Savannah Cashman, 11.

Down the street at Baron’s Pub, Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School Art Teacher Lydia Dommel was with students working on designs of Frosty the Snowman and Santa flying in a bi-plane.

“It’s a totally different media from what you would usually use,” Dommel said about painting on windows. “When would you go out and paint on windows?”

Friends and fellow Mack Benn Jr. Elementary fifth-graders Aaliyah Jackson, 10, and Jaden Williams, 10, used plenty of paint to put their ideas on glass.

“Usually when I think of Christmas, I think of Frosty the Snowman,” Aaliyah said.

“We’re gonna make snowflakes around him,” Jaden added.

“I think I’m going to draw some icicles,” Aaliyah chimed back.