Families gathered in Helena’s Memorial Park on Sunday to celebrate the start of the school year.
The Helena Education Foundation organized the 17th Carnival Classic. It’s held every year as Helena School District students return to class.
Volunteers from each district school, along with student clubs and other groups, set up booths around the park. They offered everything from food to art and crafts to activities and games.
Theresa Maleski brought her granddaughter Remie, who is about to turn five.
“We had a great time today,” she said.
Maleski, who works at Kessler School, said they came to support Kessler’s snowcone booth. She said Remie’s favorite parts of the event were a stand offering “sand art” candy powder, a bounce house, and a performance by students from an Irish dance team.
“She doesn’t want to go home,” Maleski said.Helena Education Foundation executive director Lisa Cordingley said the idea for the Carnival Classic came from a similar event in Billings. It was originally intended to give schools and organizations an opportunity to raise money. Each individual group is able to keep the proceeds they collect during the event.
Cordingley said, while fundraising is still part of the Carnival Classic, it’s not the most important aspect anymore.
“The most important thing about the Carnival is that it brings the community together on a beautiful day to celebrate public education,” she said.
It takes hundreds of volunteers to make the event possible, from parents and students to school staff.
“We have principals and we have teachers who spend their day here on a Sunday, because we believe in coming together for public schools,” said Cordingley.
HEF estimates more than 2,000 people attend the Carnival Classic each year.
Maleski said Sunday was a great day for the event – and that she’s already looking forward to next year.
“I hope they have this kind of weather every year, because they had really good turnout,” she said.
The Carnival Classic is just one of the events the Helena Education Foundation sponsors to support public schools in Helena. You can get more information about them at the foundation’s website