G.T. Norman hosts community night

REED CITY — To paraphrase an old rhyme of childhood days, the one that starts with, “Rain, rain, go away,” Norman Elementary staff made the decision, “you can come even this day, because we moved inside to play!”

And that they did. Instead of just hoping to hold all the activities outside as planned for the Family Community Night planned for Thursday, May 19, or holding off for a rain date, it would be a go regardless.

Everything would simply — or not so simply — be moved inside. Everything. That included the huge inflatable games that towered right up nearly to the steel rafters high in the gym.

One teacher called it an absolute miracle that they actually found enough space to accommodate everything and it was set up and ready to go at 4:30 p.m. Plan B would have been a rain date a week later. This, however, was an unplanned and nearly unthought of Plan C. Once the thought came, so did lots of help and much action.

There will never be a question as to whether people will go with an enormous change in plans when it comes to Norman Elementary’s activities. When it was thought, it became a let’s go.

And would you believe 900 people showed up?

The event ran steadily from 4:30-7:30 p.m. and the “picnic staff” served hundreds of hot dogs and many, many pounds of potato salad, and chips, water and milk. The only thing lacking, one woman said, was ants. A child nearby said that wasn’t true, pointing across the room and saying very proudly, “That’s my aunt.”

Once the picnic was over, people just pitched right in and helped clean up, making things ready for Plan A the next day. School.

But this night was special. They learned gardening skills thanks to the Big Rapids Garden Club, taking along a plant to grow at home. They used hammers and nails and built basketball games and other items, those youngsters wearing bright red Lowe’s aprons and safety glasses, provided by the store out of Big Rapids. And they lined up for popcorn, snow cones and cotton candy.

Giant bubble-blowing and face-paintings did take place outside, but right close to the door in case rain came. The halls and classrooms lacked the usual litter that probably would be considered “normal” for any 900 people found at any one place at any one time.

Instead, many pitched in throughout the event to keep that in control. Also, when youngsters went in to play in or on the inflatables, they were reminded to remove their shoes. Throughout the event long lines of shoes snuggled against hallway walls waiting for owners to get done playing and need them again. That was preplanned littering at its best, and many adults, teens and children took on shoe detail to help keep this loafer or that tennis shoe from sneaking further out into the hall and possibly causing someone to stumble.

CranHill Ranch provided carnival games as well, and ran them during the event, and other non-profit organizations had spots where they could talk about their programs as well.

In addition several students won new bicycles, one family won a three-day camping certificate from CranHill, and “parents prizes” included a $10 certificate from Vic’s, and a trio of pizza winners, thanks to Pompeii’s.

According to Vicky Bowman, organizer of the monthly events, there were “at least 85 volunteers” helping. She said the winners of the various gifts will be posted on the website early this week, and she added that “for those that had to work snow cones and cotton candy, I’m sorry they worked you so hard. I owe you a chocolate donut.”

Bowman said she also would like to “thank all of the high school students, retired teachers, and Chartwell employees who volunteered their time. Also Dave Griffin who videos and manages my Family Night website, and Norman’s secretaries who help out behind the scenes, and of course the GREAT staff at Norman who works hard every month.”