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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Woodfill Elementary's Spaghetti Dinner + Big Top Festival THIS Weekend

This year's Big Top Festival will take place this Sunday, September 16, noon to 5 p.m., at Woodfill Elementary.

This weekend one of our city's beloved traditions returns, with Woodfill Elementary's Friday night Spaghetti Dinner and Sunday's Big Top Festival.

Friday, September 14, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the entire community is invited to dinner featuring spaghetti with homemade meatballs and sauce at Woodfill Elementary's cafeteria. 
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"This year we've hand rolled exactly 1,001 meatballs," says Rebecca Leonardi-Neufarth, who, along with her husband, Eric, has been overseeing the dinner for the past three years. They use a family recipe, for both the sauce and the meatballs. "My family (Leonardi) is from Northern Italy (Tuscany)," she says. "My family immigrated to Cincinnati in 1954," she says. "My Zia (Aunt) Lelia and I have made the meatballs together the past two years. She passed away in January. This third year making them without her was definitely bittersweet. Our time in the kitchen was always so special and important to our family."

Rebecca Leonardi-Neufarth (right), pictured with her Zia (Aunt) Lelia, 12 years ago.
The Leonardis and Neufarths turn the prep work into a family event. This year Rebecca and Eric, along with Rebecca's parents and Eric's parents, hand rolled all the meatballs. "While this year she [Zia Lelia] was not by my side making them, I am so proud to be representing my heritage and keeping her memory alive by sharing our family recipes with our community," Rebecca says.

Tuesday, Rebecca and her family will be making 22 gallons of sauce, a family recipe as well.

Diners enjoy last year's Spaghetti Dinner, an event that not only draws Woodfill families, but folks throughout the community.

Friday, family-style portions will be available for dine-in only, for $25. For individual portions, adult meals are $8 and child/senior meals are $6. New this year: soft drinks may be purchased for $1. Children may preview and play games that will be at the festival on Sunday, and win prizes.

"The one thing I like at the Spaghetti Dinner is that I get to see a lot of my friends and we get to eat Italian, and I know one of my friends from the school helped make it," says Nellie Albritton, a 5th grader at Woodfill.

Brandtly Winburn (middle), helping out at last year's Spaghetti Dinner with his friends, James Uhl (left) and Owen Uhl (right).
Woodfill students also help with this event. "My favorite part was hanging out with my friends and clearing tables when people finished eating," says Brandtly Winburn, a 3rd grader at Woodfill. "I also liked the cool aprons we got to wear."

The addition of homemade meatballs and sauce has turned a loved tradition into something quite meaningful in the Woodfill family. The students recognize this, too. When asked what her favorite thing about the Spaghetti Dinner is, 1st grader Allison Faust said, "meatballs."

Sunday's Big Top Festival, September 16, noon to 6 p.m., will feature inflatables, a silent auction, food, a cake walk, games and prizes for all ages, a basket raffle, candy wheel, body works, spiritwear and the ever-popular Up for Grabs booth.

Nellie Albritton and Sydney Albritton help their mom, Jana Albritton, with festival prep and planning each year. Here they stand before sample prizes given away at last year's festival.

"Me and my sister, Nellie, helped my mom fill the display cases at school with Big Top Prizes," 
says Sydney Albritton, a 3rd grader at Woodfill who says she likes getting her hair painted and winning prizes the most. "There are a lot of cool prizes and I wanted to keep some."

After playing games, students turn in their earned "Woodfill Bucks" for prizes.

"I helped my mom with prizes and donated candy and 2-liters,"
says Nellie Albritton, whose favorite thing to do at Big Top is "run around and play games with my friends, then go get prizes." She, along with many Woodfill students, is helping with fundraising, too. "I'm still selling raffle tickets," she says.

The Up for Grabs booth always has some big-ticket items ready for kids (and adults!) to win, including bikes.
Woodfill students are currently selling raffle tickets for $1. First prize is $1,000, second prize is $250 and third prize is $100.

Avery Barber, a 5th grader at Woodfill, has also pitched in. "I have helped by bringing in 2-liters, candy and basket raffle items," she says"I have also sold raffle tickets to family, friends and neighbors." Avery's favorite thing to do at the festival is play games. "My favorite games are cake walk and Up for Grabs," she says. "I love winning Woodfill bucks to buy prizes."

Kids participate in last year's cake walk.
Alison Winburn, a 1st grader at Woodfill, also loves the cake walk "because you get to take home and eat all kinds of delicious goodies," she says.

Woodfill parent Melissa Reed helps spray paint hair at last year's festival.
Parents are as much a part of the festival as children, and the entire school family rallies each year with sponsorships, donations for the silent auction and basket raffle, candy, pop and items for the cake walk. Countless community members donate time not only preparing for the festival, but setting up tents and games, running games, cooking pasta and handing out prizes.

Alison's mom, Ashley Winburn, is a Woodfill parent who works full time and is not able to volunteer at school during the day. So, for the second year in a row, she's chairing the event as her way of giving back to the school, teachers and staff that teach and care for her and the community's students each day. 

"This festival allows us to raise money to support our school's Leader in Me initiative, the accelerated reader and cultural arts programs, and teachers reimbursement fund," Winburn says. "The funds we raise go straight back to the school." To ensure the dinner and festival run smoothly, Winburn meets with committee leaders and parent volunteers on a regular basis for months leading up to the event. Each year she, and others, invest hours of their time.

The payoff, though, is big.

"The Big Top is our only fundraiser by the PTO for the year," says Woodfill Principal Keith Faust. "This festival helps to reduce the payment for our families for field trips to Frankfort, COSI, Conner Prairie and all of our cultural arts experiences. Additionally, it funds school events like KY Kids Day, cookouts, teacher grants and a significant contribution to our Leader in Me."

The festival fills the school's grounds, wrapping itself around the school and inside the school, as well.

Faust says his daughter, Allison, has been attending Big Top before she was a student, and has fond memories of the games, hair color, face paint and bounce houses. "Now that she is a student she gets a kick out of seeing all her friends in one place, where they can run and have fun socializing together," Faust says. "Also seeing the campus transformed into the festival atmosphere the day of the vent is a lot of fun for her."

Woodfill PTO President Laura Meier says this is Woodfill's biggest fundraiser of the year and that the majority of PTO fund are raised at this one festival. "The Woodfill PTO provides our school with funds, programs and resources that will enrich and maximize the education of every student," Meier says. "To meet this important objective, and afford services that are no longer covered by our school budgets, we must fundraise. Though it may not be our favorite responsibility, it is a necessary one. ... We are looking forward to this event and the partnership between our parents, teachers and community to host an exciting festival and once again exceed our fundraising goals."

Meier's son Collin, a 3rd grader at Woodfill, agrees. "It's nice that everybody works hard to raise money for my school," he says. "It is important because extra money for our school makes it a better place for us to learn and have fun."

Collin's sister, Elle Meier, a 1st grader at Woodfill, also loves attending Big Top and says her favorite part is getting her hair painted. "My favorite game to play is the game you can stand on and roll the giant dice," she says. "You can even win prizes. I think everybody should come to this because it is really fun for me and my brothers."

Laura Meier provided this picture from last year's festival, featuring sweet childhood joy.

And that, truly, sums it up. The event is one of the school year highlights for Woodfill students, and seeing the community show up, through donations, sponsorships and attendance, is visual proof of this city's commitment to its kids and its schools.

"Having community events such as Big Top brings our school community together," Faust says. "Additionally it allows us to provide so many opportunities for our teachers and students throughout the year that we simply couldn't do it without their support. I appreciate that Big Top, specifically, is more than a fundraiser. It is an event for kids and families to enjoy together."

For more information on the Spaghetti Dinner and Festival, go here. All events will take place at Woodfill Elementary, 1025 Alexandria Pike, Fort Thomas.

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