School festival an ‘absolute hit’

Published 9:58 pm Monday, November 11, 2019

A few hundred students and parents came in from the cold Friday evening to enjoy Northern Shores Elementary School’s inaugural Harvest Fest-ivities.

Harvest Fest offered a slew of different fall-themed activities for the students, with different games in each of the classrooms. The cafeteria was refashioned into a dance party with a DJ, face painting, a pumpkin contest and photos.

Children found out how many times they could hit a boxing dummy in an activity provided Carlos Rivas of the Dojo Mount Everest Karate Studio on Eclipse Drive. Rivas also gave out 150 bright-red balloons to any and all students.

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The young children spun around to the music while they held tight to their balloons’ strings. Some children dressed up in costumes, and one family even came out as one big Super Mario team, with the father dressed up as Yoshi, according to Principal Lori White.

Votes were cast for the best decorated pumpkin per grade level. There was one pumpkin colored pink and adorned with a party hat, another made to look like Albert Einstein — there was even one that looked like a dinosaur emerging from a white egg.

Children lined up to have themselves decorated, as well, with designs by Masked by Tee, LLC Owner and Artist Litesah Williams. Northern Shores Elementary kindergartner Sydney Pressley, 6, got a pair of ocean-blue dolphins painted on her left hand.

Sydney wanted a design that matched her school’s mascot. “Because I’m at the dolphin school, and my favorite animals are dolphins,” she said after receiving her colorful design.

Nicole Johnson, the Northern Shores PTA vice president in charge of fundraising, said the Friday festival was meant to be a fun alternative to traditional fundraisers at other schools this time of year, such as selling wrapping paper or chocolate.

“We love our Northern Shores school, we love our community, and we just wanted to do something that was fun for the kids,” Johnson said.

There was fun of all sorts for the kids on Friday, including bounce houses and a touch-a-truck right outside the school. Children enjoyed pizza and funnel cake from the food trucks while they got closer looks at Suffolk Fire & Rescue vehicles, an excavator, a wrecker courtesy of Brinkley’s Wrecker Service and more.

Families purchased raffle tickets for prizes, and wristbands that allowed the children to enjoy an array of different games. Teachers, along with Nansemond River High School student volunteers, set up different games throughout the school for the festival.

The young students played Velcro dart ball in the library to win prizes like finger cuffs, back scratchers and friendship bracelets.

In another room, the students made “harvest wreaths” with artificial leaves glued onto paper plate cutouts. Angie Harmon watched as her daughter Kaylee Harmon, 9, made a wreath while her fellow Northern Shores fourth-grader Wren Eggleston, 9, did the same.

“I think it’s awesome,” Angie Harmon said about the festival, “just (for the students) to be interactive with friends and to support the school.”

Northern Shores PTA and faculty also wanted to make sure that the festival was fun for children of all abilities, Johnson said, including children with physical or development disabilities.

That’s why there was a special “sensory room,” for example. This was a room for children that may have been overwhelmed by the noise and excitement in the school. The serene space also had fun for these kids, such as a ball pit.

“We made that sensory friendly, so that if a child is overwhelmed, they have an area to go,” Johnson said. “We want this to be very inclusive for everyone. Our theme this year is ‘inclusion,’ and so we wanted this to be for everyone of every ability.

“If a child has a physical disability and a game needs to be changed (and) modified for them, then we will do that. We wanted this to be for every child.”

Principal Lori White said that the Harvest Fest was an “absolute hit” for the school’s families. The first-time event brought everybody together, and embodied the three C’s that are the theme for White’s teachers this school year: commitment, community and collaboration.

“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do, and what better way to bring everyone together than to have smile and laughter throughout,” White said.