COLUMBIA — Scarecrows, cowboys, barn animals and Indians paraded through the streets of downtown Columbia on Wednesday morning.
Members of Marching Mizzou led a brigade of dancing, laughing students in costume that stretched several blocks long. The Missouri Fight Song — "Eye of the Tiger" — "Call Me Maybe" and "Hey Baby" were among the songs played throughout the morning.
Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School celebrated its 20th annual Fall Festival on Wednesday. The all-day event began with a parade at 9 a.m. that routed children down Locust Street to Ninth Street to Broadway and back to the school.
The theme of the festival was inspired by the books "Little House on the Prairie" and "Barn Dance!", which Lee Elementary students read this fall. Students, parents, teachers and volunteers wore costumes that reflected characters from either book.
Jennifer Middleton, a first-grader, was dressed as Laura Ingalls Wilder from "Little House on the Prairie" in a flower prairie dress and bonnet. Her classmate Ayla Coke was dressed in a flannel shirt, blue overalls and big straw farmer's hat.
"I wanted to be a farm animal but my dad said no, so I went with what he said, and now I am a farmer," Coke said.
Throughout the day, classes were divided and assigned to different stations that also followed the prairie and barn theme. Some of these stations were led by teachers, while others were led by parents, volunteers and Lee Elementary's Partners in Education.
Derrick Gwinner, who used to be student teacher at Lee Elementary, returned to lead a festival station in which kids ground their own wheat while Gwinner read the book "Little Red Hen." Gwinner also demonstrated the process of making graham crackers and students were able to spread the mixture out with their hands and sample their own creations.
Nine of the school's Partners in Education participated in, provided for or led the different stations. This is the second year that Partners in Education have participated in Lee Elementary's Fall Festival.
Ann Mehr, one of the coordinators of the event and the art teacher at Lee Elementary, said the Partners in Education program provides many resources and benefits to the school without needing to provide finances as well.
David Owens, general manager of KOPN 89.5 FM, one of the school's partners, said the station has been working with Lee Elementary for decades. This is the first year that KOPN has participated in the festival.
At the festival, Owens created a radio theater recording of "Barn Dance!" in which teachers read the parts of the characters and the students produced the different sound effects.
"I loved their responsiveness and the fact they wanted to participate and wanted to work," Owens said.
Another Partner in Education, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, educated students in its stations about fish in the Missouri River. They brought a shovelnose sturgeon, long and shortnose gars, a blue catfish and a false map turtle.
"If there is anything that kids like more than anything, it is live animals," said Rick Hansen, a member of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Other events throughout the day included a showing of the Mickey Mouse cartoon by Ragtag Cinema, one of Lee Elementary's partners and a reading by local author Rick Agran of his children's book "Pumpkin Shivaree."
First-grade teacher Lottie Bushmann said this festival allows students to learn in a more creative and powerful way.
"The day is filled with experts," Bushmann said. "This festival is a chance to bring into the building so much from the community. It expands the students' world beyond our little classroom."
Lee Elementary's festival ended with a school assembly and performances by the school choir, fifth-grade contra dancers and Columbia Chorale.
"How many of you had a really neat day today?" principal Karen Burger asked the students at the assembly.
Instantly, almost every student shot his or her hand into the air. Some teachers and parents did, too.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.