BROOKSVILLE — A team of girls from the flatlands of Hernando County traveled recently to the mountains of Tennessee, and returned with shared experiences and honors.
The Powell Middle School Microsociety and School of Performing Arts Girls' Concert Choir visited Gatlinburg from May 6 to 10 for the Smoky Mountain Music Festival.
The 18 girls brought back the Class M Concert Choir (middle school) first-place trophy and a plaque touting their superior rating.
The sixth- through eighth-grade students, accompanied by their director, David Pletincks, competed against middle schools from Indiana, Alabama and South Carolina in the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
"We worked extremely hard to prepare these songs," said eighth-grade alto Rheanna Stehley, 13. "So getting first place was very rewarding."
Sixth-grade soprano Allison Sannuto, 12, was also delighted. "I think that it was amazing singing with everyone, and getting first place was cool," she said.
"Our girls have done exceptionally well this year and over the last several years," Pletincks said. "I wanted to do something special to reward them. Plus this is a trip that they will remember for the rest of their lives."
The girls were bubbling with enthusiasm over what they did and saw while in Tennessee.
"It was very fun," said eighth-grade soprano Samantha Hamilton, 14. "It was amazing. I loved Dollywood the most and getting first place."
Seventh-grader soprano Mary Catherine Curtis, 12, said, "I thought it was a great opportunity to partake in the Smoky Mountain Music Festival."
Eighth-grade soprano Chandler Ross, 13, appreciated the scenery. "The mountains were really, really pretty," she said.
"I loved Ober Gatlinburg (a mountain-top amusement center)," said sixth-grade soprano Dallas Carey, 12, "riding up the mountain on a ski lift and going down the alpine slide."
Sixth-grade soprano Jaime Brighthill, 12, liked the city. "Being able to go around the shops and see the sights of the town," she said.
"I liked the whole experience," said eighth-grade alto Meagan Jones, 14. "It was amazing seeing all the sights and getting first place was amazing, too. I think we all worked very hard getting where we got."
Eighth-grade soprano Brittany Burdette, 14, was impressed with the locals. "When we went to Cherokee, all the people were amazingly nice," she said. "It was a really good experience to be there."
Sidney Onstad, 14, an eighth-grade soprano, compared the mountainous state with her home. "When we were in Cherokee, seeing all the different kinds of stores and all the cliff views," she said, "we could see it was very different from being in Florida."
Throughout the festival there were also competitions among different level choruses, from elementary to high school, bands, and orchestras. The Smoky Mountain Music Festival runs over several weeks, hosting different schools each session. The girls had fundraisers to pay their entrance fee and travel expenses.
In addition to the first-place trophy and the superior rating, three students were recognized with certificates for outstanding performance. They were soloists Alexis Pletincks, a 14-year-old eighth-grade alto, Chandler Ross and Brittany Burdette.
"I think we all got closer as a chorus and friends," Alexis said, "(We) made a lot of good memories"
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said eighth-grade soprano Carly Churpita, 14, "and I don't think anyone will forget we're very lucky to have the chorus director we have."