By Charlie M. Holmes
---- — Stepping into the elementary school Saturday morning for the Holiday Breakfast and Marketplace was like stepping inside the holiday spirit.
After being outside on a cold, gray morning, the first thing a person noticed was the warmth. Not the kind from a furnace deep within a building, even though that was functioning just fine, but the fuzzy feeling a person gets from being around people who truly enjoy each others’ company. The second was an assault on the senses – there was the palpable feeling of excitement, the band playing Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, the smell of coffee wafting through the air and dozens of people bustling about perusing the 22 “stores” in the marketplace while searching for that perfect gift.
In the center of all the action stood a woman dressed in a red bib apron that looked like Santa’s suit. Her name is Beth Lesko, and she’s the current co-president of the PTA.
“The nice thing about this is it’s a nice community event. Everybody looks forward to it,” Lesko said.“You get to see friends and family and you get to shop for things people have made, nice homemade things, and then we have the silent auction up here on the stage. These are things that have been donated by local businesses – a lot of gift certificates, really nice items and a lot of homemade things again. People are so talented, especially in this area.”
As Lesko talked about the event a woman strolled up beside her. “This is JoAnne Crowson,” Lesko said. “She’s in charge of our cafeteria.”
“I’m like a lady of leisure,” Crowson said with a laugh.
Crowson wasn’t referring to a lack of diners, but instead to the number of people who had volunteered their time to help run the event.
“We’re making sure everybody gets served,” Crowson explained. “We have Boy Scouts helping and the Leo Club volunteers helping. They’re clearing tables. Lots of parents are helping flip pancakes. We started at 5 last night and we were here until 7:30. We came again at 7 this morning.”
Prices for the all-you-can-eat breakfast were $8 for adults, $5 for students or $20 for the entire family. The menu consisted of pancakes, sausage and apple sauce. Coffee donated by Stagecoach was also available.
Lesko estimates that somewhere between 300 and 400 people visit the Holiday Breakfast and Marketplace each year, which has been going on for a decade. The event raises a little over $3,000 for the PTA.
“We get a lot of request from different programs. We cover both schools – K through 12,” Lesko explained when asked where the money raised is spent. “Quiz team, last year, went to Virginia for nationals. We gave them funds. Tickets for field trips, certainly. Like yesterday, the second grade went to the Stanley Theater for the Nutcracker so we covered the cost of tickets . . . the 6th grade asked for an extra subscription to National Geographic for a type of book that was appropriate for that age group. Red Hot Ropers – we offset the cost of the tee shirts the kids wear. Not every kid can afford the tee shirts. We want to make sure it’s affordable for everybody, and that everybody gets a tee shirt ‘cause that’s a great program.”
The Red Hot Ropers is an after-school program for boys and girls that the elementary school physical education teacher Connie Herzig runs with the goal of keeping the kids active. Those who want to participate are required to learn a series of tricks before they are eligible to join the club. The group performs to music at several locations throughout the year.
Another program that benefits from the Holiday Breakfast and Marketplace is TREP$.
“TREP$ is a program that was brought to Cooperstown by Carina Franck,” Board of Education member, Marcy Birch, explained. “It teaches kids in a very finite six weeks how to start a concept of a business and then all of the steps until completion. Completion of the business is done at the Marketplace, which is a period of time where they can sell whatever their concept is.”
Two of the vendors at the Marketplace this year were students that had been involved with TERP$.
TERP$, which Birch says is a shortened form of entrepreneur, is for fifth through twelfth grade students. The program has been going on for four years now and each year 40 to 60 kids have participated in the program.
New to the Holiday Breakfast and Marketplace this year was the Scholastic Book Fair. It continues through Friday during school hours.
The PTA’s next big fundraiser will be Crayon Carnival.
“We have a stroll of nations where kids have a passport and they get it stamped at each station. We have a huge food court of a lot of neat kinds of foods that you wouldn’t normally get. We have a cake walk. That’s a huge hit. Anything you would think a carnival would be – the games, the prizes, cotton candy, things they shouldn’t be eating, but it’s a carnival and it’s fun,” Lesko said.
Crayon Carnival will be held at the high school from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 1.