There was a nip in the air suitable for the occasion as Hudson Elementary began its annual Fall Fling, the school's traditional family get-together.
It's a big party that gets bigger every year. This year, there were lots of crafts, homemade carnival-style games, refreshments and entertainment. But there was also a serious side to the Fling: a time to affirm everyone's commitment to a violence-free school and home.
"This entire month is domestic violence awareness month," said Mrs. Kathryn Rushe, the school's new principal. "And we've dedicated this year's event to it. Every student signed a pledge that they would not use their hands to hurt, only for good things."
"The Fall Fling is a long tradition. The money raised here goes back to each individual classroom to use for future projects," Mrs. Rushe explained. "Hundreds of people turned out, maybe 400 to 500. Teachers, staff and paraprofessionals volunteered to man the booths. Everybody gets into it. It's fun for them. The PTA really helps out, and all their proceeds go back to us as well."
This year's Fall Fling featured a big yellow, red and blue moonwalk, a putt-putt golf game brightly decorated with pumpkins, a not-so-spooky haunted house, face painting, a soda walk, beanbag and ball toss games, refreshments and a popular hayride with two Clydesdale horses. Each class made craft items to be sold for the benefit of the school.
One fifth-grade class got a jump on Christmas by making nearly 140 snowman ornaments. Another class made watermelon magnets. There were homemade baked goods and pumpkin pins. Students' artwork was displayed on walls.
A chorus featuring pupils from kindergarten through second grade put on a concert. Many students came in costume as a kind of preview for Halloween. There were vampires, witches, bats, a cowboy, a clown, a hippie, a belly dancer and more.
Fifth-grader Danielle Reid, who is student council president, came as a vampire. "I had a lot of fun. I also learned not to hit people. We traced our hands and wrote about the good things we should do with our hands, like clapping, hugging, shaking hands, sign language, waving hello and goodbye. But definitely not hitting," Danielle said.
Brandy Schaub, also in fifth grade, had a good time, too. "I went on the moonwalk, dunked Mrs. Rushe, and now I'm going to get my face painted. I also won three big bottles of soda on the soda walk."
Kindergartener Amanda Baez liked the hayride. "We went all around the school and that was fun. I like the moonwalk, too."
Fifth-grader Brittany Wingo agreed. "The hayride was great. It was the best ride out here, because I like horses. I ate a hot dog, had a drink and won lots of games. I got a spider ring, candy and a wish bottle."
Tony Harrelson, a fourth-grader, was busy playing the beanbag toss. "The haunted house was not scary at all," he said bravely.
Second-grader Alyssa Alves sang in the chorus. Her favorite songs were "Coming 'round the mountain" and the "Thanksgiving Song."
Ben Ricci, who is in third grade, came dressed as a cowboy. "I dunked Mrs. Rushe, and she got all wet. That was my favorite thing to do. I watched the little kids sing. I liked the hayride, and I won a prize on the golf course," Ben said.
"It's a great family night," Mrs. Rushe said. "And maybe, just maybe, we're helping to break the chain of violence, with the message: "These hands don't hit.' "