This parade's a hit
Blue- and pink-haired tooth fairies led the great fall festival parade Wednesday in Iron River. Retired teacher Carol McDonough and Iron River teacher Sherri Hendrickson waived their colorful wands to Iron River residents from the back of a picku...
Blue- and pink-haired tooth fairies led the great fall festival parade Wednesday in Iron River.
Retired teacher Carol McDonough and Iron River teacher Sherri Hendrickson waived their colorful wands to Iron River residents from the back of a pickup. The fairies were followed by every child in Iron River Elementary School who paraded down the streets on foot or float in colorful costumes.
Mixed in with various witches, ghouls and army soldiers were Darth Vaders, pirates and princesses.
Some students practiced their creative side with a life-sized Berenstain Bear complete with paper mache head, and a mother carrying her "baby" in the shape of fifth-grader Amanda Ogren.
The school's fall festival and parade has been a tradition in Iron River for decades. It's one event that brings the community together to celebrate its pride and its school, said Diane Hanrahan, Parent-Teacher Organization president.
The festival pulls families and the community together. Volunteers and businesses donate time, supplies and funding to the event, she said.
The festival starts out each year with a costume contest. Afterward, costume-clad students take it to the streets for the afternoon parade, which is followed by classroom Halloween parties. Students and their families return to the school in the evening for games, face painting, a cake walk and a meal provided by parents and teachers.
"We're very proud of our school and what it means to our community. It just represents years of tradition ... that our town is very proud of," Hanrahan said.
JoAnne Bulanek and Jean Byrnes parked along the parade route and waved to the students walking by Wednesday during the parade while looking for Byrnes' granddaughter.
"She made sure I saw her," Byrnes said.
"It's kids, that's what it's about," Bulanek said.
The festival and parade used to be a bigger event in Iron River. At one time, the Northwestern High School band dressed up and came out to play in the parade.
The parade now consists of the students, their teachers and parents and Iron River police and fire department vehicles.
Still, the thrill of the parade lives on for students
Third grader Jennifer Thul dressed as Hannah Montana.
"It was very fun going on the hayride," she said.
Several people from town waved to students in the parade, and instead of throwing candy the students received treats from workers at the bowling alley and banks, she said.
It's fun seeing all the costumes and having a party, said fourth grader Jessica Grymala.
Cheryl Slowinski took off from work for the day to see her grandson participate in the parade just as she watched his father participate years ago, she said.
Iron River High School alumnae Kathy Suo, Ginger Weyandt and Rozie Maki were on hand at the festival to judge the costume contests. The judges picked a three winners from each classroom and searched for originality, they said.
It's a little hard to judge the contest, Suo said. "You don't want to leave anyone out."
A few children from each class put together some unique costumes, Weyandt said. She remembered working at booths at fall festivals years before when her own children were in school. It's fun, she said.
McDonough and Hendrickson had a ball leading the parade Wednesday.
The teachers decided to dress alike because when they worked together they were often mistaken for sisters because of similarities in appearance and personality, McDonough said.
The parade was a well-established event when they started working at Iron River 20 years ago, she said.
Students now are more apt to purchase costumes than make them. Years ago, almost all the costumes were homemade, she said.
"We do have fun with it," she said. "The kids love it."
Michelle Drougas rode in the parade with her son Luke.
People come out every year just to see the kids dressed up no matter if they have relatives involved or not, she said.
"The whole town looks forward to it," she said. "I think that being from the Iron River community we're fortunate to be able to do these kinds of events."
A bigger school wouldn't be able to take all the children on a mile-long parade through town, she said.
Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail email@example.com .