Under the big top at Arlington's Kent Prairie Elementary

ARLINGTON — Kent Prairie Elementary became a big top circus on the evening of Feb. 11, thanks to students, school staff and community volunteers.

The school PTA’s 11th annual fundraising carnival was packed with kids, activities, clowns, tasty treats and even a ringmaster, in the form of Kent Prairie Principal Kathy Engell.

“The food is always a big draw,” said Engell, dressed in a top hat and red jacket with tails, as attendees of all ages lined up for pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, soda and snow-cones in the school cafeteria. “We’ve got about 25 games going on tonight, and every kid who finishes their card gets a frisbee, a football or a water bottle.”

While moms such as Heidi Sawyer and Stacey Johnson bid on items including baskets full of sweets and different flavors of tea in the school library, other parents settled into the din of the cafeteria where Kris Johnson and Sandy Lane whipped up balloon animals for youngsters.

Parents Dominick and Lakeasha Bennett took in their first PTA carnival at Kent Prairie this year, since daughter Amaiya just entered first grade at the school in September.

“This has been pretty nice,” said Dominick Bennett, as he fed a slice of pizza to his other daughter, 14-month-old Alana. “My favorite part is the food,” he laughed. “Amaiya has been able to make friends and get to know the teachers here this year, so she hasn’t had any worries.”

PTA parent Kim Hahn and her son Brandon got into the spirit of the event by costuming for the occasion. Kim affixed some artificial Abraham Lincoln-style chin-scruff to her face to play the bearded lady, while Brandon donned a flesh-toned muscle-suit and hefted fake barbells as the strongman.

“I just thought of it this year,” said Brandon, who’s now in sixth grade at Post Middle School, of his eye-catching homemade biceps. “I needed something to do, since I couldn’t go on the games anymore.”

While the cafeteria served as the site for juggling and rounds of basketball hoops, the latter of which proved popular with kids such as fourth-grader Jonah Hockett, the school’s hallways and classrooms contained festivals of games and activities on their own. Carnival Chair Kimberly Meno explained that the students themselves had put up the circus animals and clowns and other decorations the week before, to which adults had added railroad-car cages and other appropriately themed decorations.

“The parachute tops went up just today,” Meno said Feb. 11, as she gestured toward the multicolored canvas cover the ceilings. “This is also the first year that ever student received a free ticket to the carnival.”

While fifth-graders Faith MacIntosh and Taylor Cochran got matching airbrushed “tattoos” that read, “Talk to the Hand,” fourth-grader Caleb Pearson was able to take part in a round of miniature golf in spite of not even being a student at Kent Prairie. Both the kids and their parents expressed enthusiasm for almost everything about the carnival.

“The bouncy house is the funnest part,” said Jared Falor, a second-grader attending the carnival for a second year.

“They did a really great job here this year,” said Jared’s dad, Burke Falor. “They’ve clearly worked hard on it, and it’s all moving really fast, so the kids can have more fun.”

“I brought two of my kids, plus my niece from Monroe,” said Taylor’s dad, Chad Cochran. “I come because the kids love to come. They’re especially fond of the cakewalk.”

Even some older kids joined in the fun. Eighth-graders Joesy Taylor and Summer Sanders did the cakewalk, with Sanders winning a cake.

“My little sister goes to fifth grade here,” said Taylor, a second-year carnival attendee. “Everything is just so much fun here.”

While this year’s fundraising totals are still being added up, last year’s carnival raised approximately $5,000.

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