Last spring, when Sandra Even first began planning for Forestville Elementary School's 25th anniversary, Forestville principal Matt Harris gave her two choices.
"He basically said to me, 'you can do cake and balloons, or you can do an extravaganza,'" said Even, who headed up the 25th anniversary planning committee.
She opted for the latter.
"It was a fabulous event," said Even, who worked all summer with her 25-plus committee volunteers to put on the 2-day celebration.
On the evening of Friday, Oct. 20, parents and teachers from both the past and the present gathered at the Washington Dulles Marriott hotel for an adult social that included a silent auction to raise money for the school.
"It incorporated four out of the five principals from the past and included over 40 teachers from the past and present," said Even. "It was just over 200 people there, and it was a nice showing of how much feeling we have for Forestville."
The students were not entirely left out of the night's festivities. Prior to the event, each grade level was given a set of plain white pottery to paint and glaze according to their assigned theme. For example, second grade students kept to a yellow birthday theme, and sixth grade students painted their items with red and white stars and cardinals to represent their Forestville Cardinals theme. The completed sets were then auctioned off at that adult social.
"We had seven different collections and each one was auctioned off, so we raised $6,300 for the school," said Even.
Forestville Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president Ginger Mahon said the atmosphere at the social was akin to a high school reunion.
"It just proved to be so warm and embracing — you could feel the love," said Mahon.
THE FOLLOWING morning, Saturday, Oct. 21, parents, teachers and students gathered at the school and kicked off a day-long, activity-filled celebration with the unveiling of a new Forestville Elementary school sign. The sign was paid for by the PTA as its 25th "birthday gift" to the school. After the unveiling, students launched into their school for games, food, sports, face-painting, photos and other fun activities.
"Saturday we had this incredible weather, and it was this beautiful fall day," said Mahon. "The kids just had a blast."
The event featured an array of food offerings which included an "International Hall," cotton candy, popcorn, pizza and gyros from local vendors, and a gigantic bake sale. Students also had the opportunity to hit up the "Daddy Tie-Dye" area to make t-shirts and bond with their fathers, and swing by the "Family Photo Stop" to take pictures with friends and relatives. In addition, each grade level sponsored two games.
"Some were homemade, and some were rented," said Even.
Her son, sixth grade student Bryan Even, 11, said that he particularly enjoyed a fifth grade game called "Deal or No Deal" that was set up like a TV game show. Participants were given the choice between huge candy bars or "mystery boxes."
"Sometimes there would be 10 redemption tickets in a box, and sometimes there would be one," said Even.
Another game at the celebration was "Cakewalk," an old-fashioned game in which students who landed on a certain color on the cakewalk would get to choose a cake to take home.
Even said that it felt fantastic to watch parents, students and teachers enjoy all of the different activities.
"We're talking about an elementary school, and when you have that kind of response, you just know something good is out there, and it's so nice to just reflect on the good sometimes," said Even. "You hear so much negative stuff, and this was just such a positive event — the children were so proud and happy, and there was a nice community atmosphere."
THE SCHOOL is not quite finished with its anniversary celebration.
"We're still working on a very large tile wall," said Even.
Tiles for the wall are still being sold, and are designed to be painted and personalized. When enough tiles have been completed, the collective mosaic will be installed in the school. In addition, the grandmother of a Forestville student has been working on a Forestville quilt that will also be hung in the school upon its completion.
"It was a wonderful way to celebrate 25 years by having two different events — one geared toward adults and one geared toward families," said Mahon. "It was just really special."
Not one to rest on her laurels, Even is currently gearing up to start planning Langley High School's 2007 prom.
"The Great Falls community is a great place to be, and the families are wonderful," said Even. "Right now my children enjoy the school community, and what can I say? When you're volunteering it becomes very rewarding."
Ginger Mahon said that although Even's son will graduate from Forestville this year, she has no doubt that Even will continue to do impressive things for the Great Falls community.
"She is just incredible," said Mahon. "She's an amazing asset to our school and our community."