By MITCH RYALS
Mini-vans lined West Rollins Road the night of Oct. 8 as families arrived at Russell Elementary’s Fall Festival. Kids hit the ground running toward the booths. But they didn’t have all the fun — during the cake walk, onlookers witnessed adults jumping up and down at the opportunity to pick out a treat.
The PTA puts on the festival as a fundraiser. Families were able to participate in an evening packed with fun activities, give-aways and sugar, all while raising money for the school.
Michelle Baltyn, mother of two Russell Elementary students and head of the planning committee for the festival, said there were different groups of parents working to set up each part of the festival.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Baltyn said. “We usually raise about five to $7,000.”
Baltyn said the money raised from the festival will be used for an assortment things. In the past it was used for field trips, school supplies and new playground equipment.
Sherri Carinder, a mother of a fourth grader at Russell, said she would like to see some of the money go toward a fund for school supplies to help out teachers.
“I know teachers go into their own pockets for supplies,” she said.
Carinder said her favorite parts of the festival were all the kids playing together and getting a chance to visit with others.
“Seeing my son wearing pink in his hair is not too bad either,” she said. Her son’s new hairstyle done was courtesy of the hair-painting booth.
In addition to a bounce house, ring toss, a cake walk and hair painting, other activities included but were not limited to:
- Free pony rides provided from the Columbia Equestrian Center
- Needle in the Haystack prize find
- Face painting
- Sucker Pull Tree
- Bean Bag Toss
- Silent auction
Artirice Whitaker stood in line with her two daughters, Mitriana, kindergarten, and Jaiviana, pre-school, for a chance to ride the ponies. Jaiviana said the pony rides were her favorite part, while Mitriana decided she most enjoyed the bounce house.
Max Chegwidden, another pre-schooler was one of the many cake walk champions. It turned out to be his favorite activity. Max picked out a spider themed cake, complete with Twizzler legs.
Baltyn acknowledged all the Partners in Education and volunteers that helped with the festival, including Gerbes, Callaway Bank and Kohl’s. Hy-Vee donated soda and cookies, and Fresh Ideas, a local catering business, cooked the food.
Rebecca Jones, another parent of a Russell student, said she was most excited about was the more than 60 volunteers from Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and Sigma Nu fraternity. They are the first MU Greek organizations to volunteer at an event off-campus campus event and were in charge of running the various booths. Kappa Alpha Theta is part of the partners in education program.
“Parents used to do it, now they can spend more time with their families,” Jones said about running the booths.
Amy Armstrong and Kerri Williams, two freshmen from Kappa Alpha Theta, ran the Needle in the Haystack booth.
“It just seemed like a fun thing to do to help out the community,” Armstrong said. “It’s refreshing to see some young children.”
At the Needle in the Haystack booth, Armstrong and Williams supervised as kids huddled around a bin full of hay and prizes. It cost two tickets.
“We both like children,” Williams said with a smile on her face.
The two said they were proud to be a part of the first MU Greek organization to reach out to the community. They said it was about time the sorority got off campus.
“It’s only natural, women in our sorority are amazing,” Armstrong said.
The PTA raise between $6,000 and $7,000, Jones said.