School holds 21st annual autumn celebration
BY VOICE STAFF
Last Thursday morning, Carolyn Botari stood in the middle of the gym at St. Ann Catholic Elementary School, trying to make up her mind. Botari, who taught at the school for 25 years before retiring, was back on the day to help run the annual Fall Fair, and was having trouble judging the “Twin Vegetables” competition.
“These two are near perfectly-identical,” she said, gesturing to a pair of tomatoes. “But tomatoes twin all of the time. You don’t often see an acorn squash that looks like this.”
Botari picked it up and turned it over, running her fingers over the flat part in the middle where the two individual squashes had grown together.
“I also have to consider who submitted these vegetables, because some of them will win for a lot of other things. It’s not good if one person wins every award.”
A student ran in, her hair in pigtails underneath a cowboy hat, holding a plastic bag full of something big. She put it on a table that already held a half-dozen sunflower heads the size of hubcaps.
“Take it out of the bag,” Botari urged her, and the girl shyly peeled back the plastic on her flower. She hurried out of the gym and returned to class. The students were due to fill the gym later in the afternoon to see all of the displays with the winning ribbons pinned on.
Botari moved over to the table where fruits and vegetables were carved and fitted together to look like animals. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” she said. “And each time there’s a new creation that surprises me.”
She looked at an alligator that had been made predominantly out of pineapple skin. “That’s just great.”
St. Ann’s principal, Jennifer DeCoff, has been at other schools that hold fall fairs, but not like this one.
“It’s completely different here. It’s a real fall fair, just like you’d have out in the community. And it’s really important to our students, because it’s celebrating their rural roots.” Many of St. Ann’s 140 or so students live near the school in the center of Fenwick, but many others live further away on larger farms.
Both DeCoff and Botari emphasized how excited the kids were to be showing off the things they’ve grown at home. “One told me that, after Christmas, it was his favourite day of the year,” said Botari.
Henry Knafelc, a Grade Five student, wore a plaid shirt and suspenders and seemed similarly enthused by the event. Knafelc’s entries for the biggest zucchini and “Make Potatoes Look Like Your Teacher” earned second place, while his “Vegetable Animal” took first.
Knafelc made the body of his pig from a giant watermelon that he grew at his family’s Ridgeville farm, and its head was carved from a butternut squash.
“And then I just hunted around the yard for chestnuts and leaves to make its eyes and ears,” he said.
Knafelc’s family has only hens at home, and so it was a thrill for him to see the pig that a classmate’s father had brought in. He clarified that “it wasn’t just a pig—it was a hog, with tusks and everything,” and mentioned that the only thing left to do was to convince his parents that they should get one too.