If the chilly nights weren’t enough of a clue, the large crowd at Franklin Elementary School’s Annual Fall Carnival Friday evening is as reliable as the changing colors of the leaves that fall has come.
Although this is the first year Jodi Southern is serving as principal at the school, she is no stranger to the fundraiser after being at Franklin for five years.
“The turnout has been great so far,” said Southern a little more than one hour into the carnival. “We have had a big crowd starting out at 3 p.m. and a lot of students and parents are still here.” Southern said that all the proceeds from the event will go to help pay for an air conditioning in the school’s gym, which was paid for by money obtained from the county.
“We are working to pay for the rest of the AC in the remainder of the project so we can move on to other needs in the school,” Southern said. The Franklin Elementary Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) organized the perennial favorite for the school as part of an ongoing effort not only to fund improvements but keep the community involved.
Southern said without the help of the PTO the event would not be possible. She praised the volunteer efforts of parents, faculty and staff all working together.
“This is a great opportunity to pull the community and parents in while building relationships to support the school,” Southern added. “This shows the kids they can be important in the community. All of our teachers help work the booths and run the games. We appreciate them coming to help with the food, getting dunked, painting faces and singing and dancing at the cake walk.”
She herself was facing a late afternoon turn in the dunking booth but said she had heard the water was not only clean but was warm.
“The atmosphere here is always upbeat,” said Southern. “Parents and kids are happy. The festival has always had a pleasant atmosphere.”
A short distance away, Teaching Assistant Renee Weddle was helping out participants in the Lucky Ducks Game. She said the popular pick-me-up type game needed some refinement in the past. She said one year the pool was filled up with too much water to let it be easily emptied; another year the inflatable pool leaked. This year the pool was just right with the crowds coming in bursts.
Escort Ruth Ann Harold was helping here charge, 3-year-old Roslyn Akers. Harold said Akers had been excited about the festival for days and had already won a flag and some fish. She hurried off as the child rapidly walked away towards another booth.
In the school cafeteria vendor Julie Center Holcomb expertly moved between candy apples, weaving cotton candy, sno cones and popcorn with the help of her husband, Billy. Holcomb said the firm, known as We Care Concessions, had been a family operation for 64 years. It was begun by her grandfather, Jim Young, and later continued by her mother, Lorraine Sawyers, who is looking to retire next year.
Holcomb said she is a trained nurse who left the profession to be a stay-at-home mom but needed something to pay the bills. She said 10 years ago an accident with the candy apples left her hands burned during the busy season. She wrapped her hands in plastic because she couldn’t hold the stick and the technique stuck. The firm specializes in charity events and gives half of its earning to the causes.
Outside the school Assistant Principal Emily Niston was reminding students lining up how much they loved her as she took her turn in the dunking booth.
“If you notice the line just got longer now that it is my turn,” said Niston. “This is my first time in a dunking booth and I’m a little nervous. I’m going to trash talk them. There’s not going to be any appeal for compassion. My husband, Trevor, is already at the front of the line.”
Off to the side, bus drivers Leslie Moore and Alison Jones were taking in every facet of the booth. They quickly pointed out the skills they use on their job would give them an edge.
“We’re pretty good in stress and we are going to learn how to dunk our assistant principal,” said Jones. “I think my plan is to sneak around the back of the booth, hit the paddle and throw a dollar in. That’s the way we roll.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 336-719-1952.