COLUMBIA — Music and flashing lights could be seen and heard well outside of Benton Elementary School on Friday night.
The attraction was the school’s ninth annual sock hop, which many students and teachers called the highlight of the school year.
The special night was a fundraising event for the school and an evening of fun for students and their families.
Flashing rainbow lights lined the gym walls as excited students bopped, jumped and danced to the music. Children of all ages danced alongside their parents and grandparents as a disc jockey played music.
Glow stick jewelry that was sold as part of the fundraiser also lit up the transformed gym.
Watching the dance from the sidelines, Fontella Jones said that her daughter, second-grade student Nidjha Jackmon, had been looking forward to the sock hop for the last month.
“It’s like prom,” Jones said. “I wish I had something like this when I was in grade school.”
Beth Small had the duty of bringing her two daughters and two of their friends to the sock hop this year. Attendance by parents is mandatory, which Small said is a good idea.
Small laughed as she recounted the story of her daughter Samantha and her friends getting ready.
“I opened the bathroom door and it reeked of hair spray and perfume,” she said.
Down the hall from the gym, hungry students and their families piled into a classroom, labeled the “Benton Café” for the night. The menu included hot dogs, popcorn, chips and soda.
Denise Lasley, the school’s speech pathologist, and Erika Buechert, a fourth-grade teacher, stayed busy serving families at the cafe. This is Lasley’s seventh sock hop and Beuchert’s first.
“I heard that it is the big party of the year,” Buechert said. “The kids have been so excited, dancing all day getting ready for it.”
PTA President Edith Stevens said the money raised from the sock hop goes toward a number of things, including school supplies, playground equipment and student groups like the K Club, which is a partnership with the Kiwanis club.
Students in the K Club sold the glow stick jewelry to raise money for the fourth- and fifth-grade trip to The School of Economics, a one-day program that teaches children about what it’s like to run a business.
Third-grade teacher Kathleen Casper is involved in K Club and helped students sell the glow sticks at the sock hop. At the end of the night, Casper described the sale of 200 to 300 glow sticks as tremendous.
Another part of the sock hop was a raffle of gift baskets made by teachers and students. Each basket had a theme, including stuffed animals and cooking supplies.
Fifth-grader Jordan Fannin enthusiastically explained the process of creating the gift baskets, noting that each class votes on what it wants to do.
“As Ms. Barksdale says, we’re a ‘big Benton family,’” Fannin said.