Kids, and even some parents, once again got the opportunity to dress up in their Halloween costumes and have some autumn-themed fun at Rio Vista Elementary School’s Harvest Festival on Saturday.
Students were able to play carnival games, get some food from one of the many food trucks, or just hang out and play on the playground with their friends. Portions of the money collected by vendors, all the funds from tickets from games and admission, and silent auctions on gift baskets went directly back to the school’s PTA.
Mori Saifi, event organizer and PTA member, said after a tough three years, these kids deserved some fall fun.
“All these kids have been through so much in the past three years. We haven’t had graduations. We haven’t been able to have the kids have a good time. So we thought, ‘Why not bring Fall Festival back’ and basically togetherness – community,” said Saifi. “We are a community, we got through the worst thing we could possibly go through and we got through it and now we’ve come together. We’re raising money for the school because we haven’t done any fundraisers for the school. So this is to make money for field trips, so the kids can go on field trips again, and for other activities that we have here.”
Cheryl Cameron, principal of Rio Vista, said it’s been four years since they’ve been able to have a festival, due to a fire in 2019 that delayed the event until the next year – which of course never happened.
“It is wonderful to be back. The PTA was pulling out cut-outs of things from storage that I didn’t even know that we had, because my first year was the year that the pandemic hit,” said Cameron. “So it’s just really wonderful to see families here and having a great time and to have a sense of normalcy and to kind of getting our community back.”
Colleen Hawkins, superintendent of the Saugus Union School District, felt the same way and emphasized the trust between the district and its parents is better strengthened when seeing one another face-to-face.
“Our schools are fully open again, our parents are back in force and happy to be on campus, we are happy to have them here, and events like these just bring together that school community,” said Hawkins. “In Saugus, we’re really about building that foundational piece of the emotional well-being of our students first and then working on our academic pieces, and you can’t have one without the other. We’re in a partnership with our parents. We know that COVID didn’t allow us to maintain that partnership in the close way that we always had. So now we have to rebuild that trust with our parent community, and having events like these just does that.”
The event also marked the first time vendors were able to sell their goods since the pandemic, with portions of the proceeds going toward the PTA. Bathsheba Dorsey, one of the vendors and a parent at Rio Vista, said she was thrilled to be able to help out her kids’ school.
“It feels awesome, especially since this was the first year since they brought back vendors – because before it was just the games and things like that,” said Dorsey. “So I think we’re all really excited. I know I am because I made [the products] specifically for this, because it’s a kid-focused event so I made more child-friendly and focused products.
Regardless of the fundraising efforts, Saifi said it wasn’t the main focus of the festival.
“With us, it wasn’t about, ‘Oh, we’re gonna make $10 or $500 or $1,000.’ It was mainly to see their smiling faces,” said Saifi. “I mean, when you go around these kids are just so happy and so excited… So I just hope that whoever is reading this article or sees it, they take a chance and they give back to our community, in whatever way they can.”