Columbia Independent School students don Roman garb for Toga Day

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 | 6:02 p.m. CDT; updated 11:23 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Students at Columbia Independent School celebrated the anniversary of Rome's founding with the 16th annual Toga Day on Wednesday. They wore homemade togas and performed skits at Missouri United Methodist Church after eating at Harpo's Bar and Grill.

COLUMBIA — In the original legend, Cupid and Psyche probably never took a selfie.

But in the version told by students from Columbia Independent School, it ended with the two characters rekindling their love by taking a picture together after facing many obstacles, including a venture to the underworld.

The skit was part of the school's 16th annual Toga Day on Wednesday. Students celebrated by dressing in togas and performing Roman-inspired skits at the Missouri United Methodist Church. The festivities began with lunch at Harpo's Bar and Grill and were followed by a toga march down Tenth Street to the church.

The student performances, such as "Top Ten Toga Troubles," put a modern spin on ancient Roman myths and history, sometimes incorporating Roman-themed puns.

“How was the Roman Empire cut in half?” a student hosting the event asked. “With a pair of Caes-ars.

The event is part of students' Latin language courses, which are required for middle school students and offered as electives to high school students.

Sue Ann Moore, the head of the school's Classics Department, has coordinated the event since it started.

"April 21 is the founding date of Rome, so we celebrate this time each year," she said.

Moore, who will be retiring at the end of the year, said Toga Day has become one of the most anticipated events of the school year.

“The students love creative thinking. They love the study of Latin,” she said. "When I ask them, ‘What is your favorite day?’ they all yell 'Toga Day!’"

The students create their own togas — some with the help of their parents — to wear during the day’s festivities.

This year, most students wore outfits made from sheets bedecked with sashes, vines and glitter. But other students took a less traditional route and wore buckskin togas and cowboy hats to go along with their skit called “Wild, Wild Western Rome.”

To play his role as the "undead soldier" in his skit, one student even donned a Spartan helmet rescued from an antiques mall.

“I wanted to be a Spartan, but if I wore the full armor, I probably wouldn’t be let in the restaurant,” 13-year-old student Bradley Snyder said.

Wrapped in their own togas, teachers joined in the fun as well. Like some of his students, one teacher even enlisted the help of his mother.

“I said, 'Mom, I need a toga' and she said, 'Again?'” said Alex Terwelp, a Latin teacher for seventh- and eighth-graders, who was participating in his first Toga Day.

He said his students were enthusiastic about creating their Roman history skits and incorporating Latin into them.

“It’s about being able to show you can synthesize and connect modern day with ancient cultures,” he said. “And just have some fun.”

Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.

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