COLUMBIA — This coming Saturday at Midway Heights Elementary, a line of students, parents and faculty members will start to form at the school’s front door.
Inside, the line will split in two. One group will go to the classrooms, where attendees can play games and win raffle tickets, and the other group will go to the cafeteria. That's what usually happens at Midway Heights annual Fall Fest, according to Ashli Hagan, one of the main organizers and a part-time secretary at Midway.
This year's Fall Fest will run from 4 to 8 p.m. at Midway Heights, 8130 West Highway 40. The event has been held since the mid-1960s and is Midway's main fundraiser, hosted by the PTA.
Fall Fest takes preparation. The school’s kitchen coordinator and her helpers will start preparing for the cafeteria line hours before the event.
"They’ll start on Saturday morning at 7 and will cook all day," Hagan said. "And it’s all homemade chili and cornbread and things like that." Dessert is included.
In addition to the homemade food, each classroom hosts its own game, such as shooting a basketball, tossing a beanbag or playing musical chairs for tickets. Winners can then trade those tickets in for prizes, Hagan said.
Also, each classroom donates a themed gift basket to be sold at the country store, a special area set up at the school for Fall Fest. Some of the bigger baskets will be part of a silent auction. Basket theme’s range from the Missouri Tigers to pets to cake, brownie and cookie mixes.
"Very few people will leave (Fall Fest) with nothing in hand," Hagan said.
Hagan believes Fall Fest also is popular because it’s a place where families can come to enjoy food, games and community.
"I think, in a community where a lot of it's centered on the university life, it’s kind of hard to find fun activities that the little ones can enjoy, and these types of activities cater towards elementary-aged kids," she said.
"So the main draw," Hagan continued, "is that it’s just fun for everybody in the family to come and it’s a good place to meet. It’s an awesome way to get involved in the school."
Last year, the PTA raised more than $20,000 from Fall Fest. Hagan said the money from the event goes directly to the students and teachers at Midway Heights. Last year, a portion of the money raised went to technology purchases, Hagan said.
"We bought iPads for the school," she said. "And we’ll buy books and things for the playground, materials for the classrooms. It just depends on a year-to-year basis what kinds of things that we’ll purchase."
But thinking about how to spend the money that is raised is for another time. This Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m., people will be thinking about homemade chili, gift baskets and beanbag tosses.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.