CARIBOU, Maine — For over a decade, parents and young children have enjoyed face painting, hayrides, and potato sack races at the Harvest Hoedown in Caribou. While the event has traditionally been held at Hilltop Elementary School, its recent closure has moved the festivities to Teague Park Elementary School on Bennett Drive.
Teague Park Principal Cheryl Hallowell said this year’s event was split into two parts, with second and third graders going out between 9 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. and kindergarteners and first graders getting a chance to play between 1 p.m. and 2:15 p.m..
“We decided to split the classes up this year,” said Hallowell. “It wasn’t bad last year but some of the lines got really long, especially for the hayride. We tried splitting up the grades for Winter Fun Day and it worked really well and the kids were able to do a lot more, so we decided to do it this way for the Hoedown as well.”
Aside from splitting up classes, the biggest differences this year were a slight change in location due to the construction of a new school at Teague Park and a few new activities, including a revamped obstacle course and tug of war.
The construction has not posed a significant distraction for students or staff, according to Hallowell, who added that it has become “white noise” at this point.
“It’s not even a little distraction,” she said. “It doesn’t disrupt us a bit, but I do want to go over and peek at it every once in a while. It’s exciting stuff now that the new school project is off the ground.”
The principal gave much of the credit for the Harvest Hoedown to the Caribou Recreation Department along with Kara Bouchard of the Teague Park Elementary School Special Education Department.
Bouchard said she took over Harvest Hoedown last year, and that coordinating the event involves contacting several volunteers and regular communication with the recreation department staffers.
“We set the date at the end of the school year,” said Bouchard, “and at the beginning of the next year we get volunteers and members of the rec department together to help put together the activities.”
The only challenge in organizing the event, for Bouchard, is ensuring that there are enough volunteers ready to help. But there were roughly 20 volunteers from Caribou High School and about five from the recreation department involved.
Both Bouchard and Hallowell said that funding from the event comes from Box Tops for Education and that potatoes and pumpkins are donated by local farmers.
“None of it is in the school budget,” said Hallowell.
Bouchard said the event is a great opportunity for parents to spend time with their kids and to get out and “do some things they might not normally get to do.”
Hundreds of parents and children seemed to agree, as plenty could be seen enjoying some family time during the Sept. 27 event.
Meagan Irving came with her 4-year old daughter, Evelyn, and said it’s “a wonderful event for the whole family.”
Irving said she and her daughter had just arrived and were looking for her son Carter, who is in the third grade. She added that she particularly enjoys the face painting, hayride, and picking potatoes out of a leaf pile.
“It’s the best,” the 4-year-old said of the school’s annual autumn event.
Xander Willette, 7, who attended with his mother for the second year in a row, said he liked the hayride and face painting, adding that there was nothing about the festival that he didn’t enjoy.
Eric Dickinson and his 7-year-old daughter Aubree came out for the second year as well. Dad said his favorite part of the festival was the hayride while Aubree said she enjoys the potato sack race, and that she liked the ladybug that was painted on her face.
Eric Dickinson said he “definitely” will come again, as he has a “3-year-old son” who soon will be attending too.
“It’s fun to take your kids out,” he said. “And there is perfect fall weather today.”