MARCO ISLAND — Authors and Artists Night pulled a crowd that might be envied by a county fair. Before you even reached the school, the sound of the Marco Island Strummers, a dozen strong, serenading the arriving families out front gave the proceedings a festive air, with bandleader Wes English jaunty in his straw boater. Parking spaces were at a premium, and nearby swales got a workout.
The school's annual Authors and Artists event celebrated creativity, and gave the children the chance to show off their creations. Kids dragged their parents into their classrooms to show them the books they had written and put together, teamed up with their classmates for performances, and got a chance to see professional role models for artistic and authorial endeavors.
Author and illustrator Linda Kay Thomas, a Collier County resident, was on hand, displaying, discussing, and offering for sale her book "Little Miss Frisky." It tells the story of an unwanted pony, said the author, sitting next to her husband Harold Thomas in his cowboy hat.
"He's the horse trainer," said Linda. Her story has a happy ending. "We have that pony at home, waiting for us," said Linda.
Students also used modern technology to video-chat with authors and artists who were not physically present. They "skyped" with illustrator Sarah Klise in California, who provided the artwork for the 2012 Sunshine State Young Readers Award (SSYRA) book, "Dying to Meet You," and Sarah Thomson, author of "Dragon's Egg", also a SSYRA book for 2012.
Parents looked at projects their children had been working on for months. First grader Sophia Lowrie's book was titled "The Best Stories Ever – by Sophia." She also showed off her picture of a farm. "It's an animal farm," she explained, although probably nothing to do with George Orwell.
The biggest attraction of the evening was the performance by the school's Morning Musicians. The group of fourth and fifth graders comes in early before school to rehearse, under the direction of music teacher and 2010 Golden Apple winner Lisa Braren.
"Come on, grandma, we have to go to the cafeteria for the music," called out one student in a kindergarten classroom, impatient with the older folks dawdling and talking to her teacher.
"Good evening. We are the famous Tommie Barfield Morning Musicians," announced the student emcee.
The Morning Musicians sang "Edelweiss" from "The Sound of Music," "Dynamite," "Step by Step" and "Teach Me Well," after leading off with the National Anthem. At one point, a blast of feedback from the backing tracks on the PA system jolted awake anyone who wasn't paying attention.
Roving throughout the school, principal Dr. Jory Westberry kept an eye on all the activities. As she stood in the hallway by some student illustrations, suddenly a little girl plastered herself against Westberry for a hug.
Celine Schauer, 6, was then joined by her sister, Jasmine, 9, both TBE students. Asked what prompted her to give Dr. Westberry a hug, Celine said simply, "because she's a good principal," and was polite enough not to add, "silly."
The end of the school year is approaching rapidly. Classes end on Wednesday, June 6, which will be a half day, with students dismissed at 11:50.