'Kerrtoberfest' at Sharpsburg's Kennedy Park a big hit with students, staff, community

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Kerr Elementary knows how to rock out.

Students and staff showed that on Friday with the inaugural “Kerrtoberfest,” which transformed Sharpsburg's Kennedy Park into a makeshift pumpkin patch complete with orange gourds, hoops and carnival games.

“We want to bring what we do at Kerr and show it to the community,” said Principal Paul Noro. “We want to build a good relationship with them.”

Noro and staff focus daily on three core values of responsibility, respect and integrity, he said.

The aim is to protect against bullying and instead use kindness to feel empowered.

It appeared as though the message is getting through to the more than 400 Kerr students who were invited to celebrate with their families and friend on a brisk fall afternoon.

“I love that the older kids are running the games,” said parent Jessica Debruyn, whose kindergartner, Ava, was busy decorating a pumpkin with silly-face stickers.

“They are being really sweet, and it shows a nice system of cross-support.”

Parent Jennifer Pernesky agreed. She said “it's nice to see them all coming together outside of school.”

Party-goers played duck pond, plucked lollipops from a tree and tossed hoops over mini haystacks. They decorated sugar cookies with colorful icing and played time-sensitive games a la TV's “Minute to Win it.”

The Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Department parked its big red truck for afternoon tours, while a small crowd of students showed off their best dance moves during a rockin' performance by local musicians Kelsey Friday and Rick Witkowski.

Fifth-graders Julianna Caraballo and Ariana Thomas spent the day catching up with old friend Felicity Hoffman, a seventh-grader who was eager to attend and “see all my old teachers.”

The girls hopped on stage and belted out the “Kerr Song,” where lyrics reiterate school values.

“That's how we do it at Kerr,” they crooned.

LaTonya Rickerson and Damien Anderson were charged with dishing out Tootsie Roll candies at the spinning-wheel game. The winning rungs were labeled with the words respect, responsibility and integrity.

“The little kids love it,” they both said.

William Generett, a sixth-grader, attended with his younger sister and said it was “nice to hang out and see old friends.” Generett said he enjoyed watching his sister get introduced to the family atmosphere of Kerr, which extends outside the school building.

Teacher Brianne Claus said the staff works hard to make sure the students feel safe and welcome in the community.

Behavior Specialist Stacy Trpcic helped organize the event and was overwhelmed with the turnout. On a fall day when school let out at midday, students weren't required to be there, she said.

“This is a great crowd,” she said. “And it's great for kids to see all the hard work we put in and what positive behavior gets them.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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