With fall most certainly in the air these days, and Halloween not too far away now, I thought this edition of Retro Ramblings would be a good time to talk about what used to be one of the highlights of my year…the annual Harvest Festival at my elementary school!
I’m using the term fall festival so more of you will know what I’m referring to. But when I was in elementary school, ours was called the Harvest Festival. Living in a farming community in the heart of the Appalachians, harvest time has always been a big deal to the people around here. A good harvest was always a reason to celebrate, as the livelihood of most in this area depended on it. The way nature works, the end of the harvest season lines up nicely with the Halloween season. Thus, we had a Harvest Festival at school instead of calling it a Fall Festival, a Monster Mash, or other names I’ve heard these events referred to.
So you’ve probably been to one of these things. The kids dress up, there are games and events, the parents wander around and congregate, and a good time is usually had by all. Ours was always held at our elementary school and was the biggest event on the school calendar with the exception of the end-of-year banquet and graduation ceremonies.
The gymnasium was filled with cheesy carnival-type games where you could win prizes. You know the kinds of games I’m talking about. Like the kiddie pool filled with plastic ducks, and on the bottoms of a few of the ducks was some kind of indicator of a better prize than normal. Everyone got something like a piece of candy or a spider ring just for playing, but if you pulled one of the special ducks, you may win something like a stuffed animal or the like. So games like this littered the entire gym floor. You had to buy tickets on your way in to use to play the games, and the money made from the sale of tickets was used for things around the school.
Our gym was connected to the lunchroom by a set of double doors, so it was easy to bounce back and forth between the two places. The cafeteria was where the parents generally stayed. There were concessions like hot dogs and pizza, and there was bingo all night. And the bingo prizes were top-notch. A lot of the businesses in town would donate really nice stuff to be given away, and this was another opportunity for the school to raise money. I can’t even begin to remember what the bingo cost, but it wasn’t cheap. But the price was small in comparison to how you would be helping the school, and the prizes you had a shot at winning. I’m talking about stuff like brand new televisions, rocking chairs, a date night package with dinner at the restaurant and tickets to the theater….stuff like that.
We also had a haunted house as part of the event. The 7th-grade class was always responsible for putting it on, and they would spend all week setting it up, and then they would dress up and be a part of the haunted house. It was never too scary of an affair, but they tried. We also had a dance room that some years was called The Disco, and other years was known as The Batcave. But you could go there, the lights were turned out and black lights were in use, and there was a DJ spinning the hottest tunes of the time. You and your friends…or your boyfriend/girlfriend could kill time together.
The whole event was great, and it was so much fun getting to run free and hang out with my friends in that environment for several hours on a Saturday night. It was also cool that since it was usually the week before Halloween, everyone would dress up in their costumes to come.
When I find myself drifting back to memories of elementary school, the yearly harvest festival is almost always the first thing that comes to mind. But what about you? Did you have anything like this when you were growing up? Share your stories in the comments section below.