Hullett Central PS hosts successful "hoedown" in Blyth
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
Hullett Central Public School’s annual Spring Carnival and Auction exploded back onto the scene this year, netting an eye-popping $18,000 in just three hours of hoedown-themed mayhem. All the money raised is going to much needed improvements to the school’s library.
Of course, those three hours were just the tip of the effort iceberg. Dozens of teachers, parents, students, volunteers, local businesses and community members all spent many hours preparing for the Hullett Hoedown, and their hard work showed in every element of the onslaught of good cheer.
Throughout the planning process, many parents and teachers were concerned that the pandemic years could lead to a decrease in student involvement - many Hullett students had never experienced the event, traditionally a fundraising juggernaut for the school. Coupling that lack of experience with modern scourges like Minecraft and Fortnite, it was no wonder that community leaders were worrying about whether or not an old-school fun fair could compete.
Those worries were instantly trampled when the hoedown fundraiser began. It was Manifest Destiny all over again, as a stampede of cowboy-hatted youths invaded the Blyth and District Community Centre on Friday night. The arena, normally home to the relatively calm sport of hockey, became absolutely crammed with plaid-shirted people having a great time. A lesser venue space would have burst at the seams under the extreme pressure of enthusiasm alone.
Grillmasters Matt Shortreed and Kelly Boven, drenched by April showers, prepared fresh hotdogs and hamburgers under the supervision of Harvey Hoggart from the Huron County Beef Producers. The burgers and dogs were ferried in from the outdoor barbeque through the Zamboni doors in heaps to feed the hungry crowd. Parent volunteers doled out the meat and directed cowpokes to the condiment table. Pizza Pizza also contributed pizza to the cause.
The bake sale table, manned by Linda Wagner, Tina Taylor, and Jill Bell, was well placed next to the ticket line - everybody waiting to enter was welcome to take a good, long look at the cupcakes, squares and tarts on offer, and it was not long after that the reasonably-priced confection table was utterly decimated. Wagner made sure to spread the credit around. “All the parents worked so hard on this event, and everything on the bake sale table was made, or made to happen, by Hullett staff,” she said between brownie sales.
Once one ambled out onto the arena floor, cowboy-hatted kids were welcomed to try classic fun fair activities, strewn as far as the eye could see. There was a bean bag toss, face-painting, arts and crafts, balloon animals and a penny sale, just to name a few. Children watched the bean bag toss from the sidelines, a dozen across, waiting their turn, not a cellphone in sight.
Activity passports were offered to industrious youngsters that like a little meritocracy with their melee, and each stamp on the passport could earn kids tickets to the penny sale, creating a rare micro-economy where an excellently-coloured-in picture of a horse could result in you winning a tiny, remote-controlled robot.
For the adults, the silent auction stole the show, with local businesses and students going above and beyond to create an eclectic mix of donations, ranging from Excalibur Insurance’s donation of four tickets to the Blue Jays game in Toronto, to a stunning horse-themed quilt made by Linda Neeb, the grandmother of students Ali and Brooklyn Lammerant. Bidders also went above and beyond, showing support for the school unaffected by a few years at home.
There was even an unknown, forest-foraged item wrapped in terrycloth on the auction table, discovered, lovingly restored and donated by one of the school’s first graders. The item, obscured from view, received a number of bids and a whole lot of buzz - bidding on the item closed at close to $50. The brisk bidding on this bonafide unknown object just goes to show that, in an age of infinite access to all information, some people are still just looking for a little mystery in their lives, just like some kids still like to put on cowboy hats and play pretend with their friends. Some things never change.