September marks the return of many Fort Thomas traditions. School is well under way, the days begin to shorten, fans dress in blue for Friday night football games and Woodfill Elementary hosts its annual Spaghetti Dinner and Big Top Festival.
Friday, September 13, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the entire community is invited to dinner featuring spaghetti with homemade meatballs and homemade sauce at Woodfill Elementary's cafeteria.
The Big Top Festival is Sunday, September 15, from noon to 6 p.m., at Woodfill Elementary. All are welcome.
But do forego making dinner Friday night for one of the best – and most inexpensive – Italian meals you'll have all year. Once again Rebecca Leonardi-Neufarth, along with her husband, Eric, hand-rolled more than 1,000 meatballs and made more than 20 gallons of sauce using a family recipe. (Rebecca's family is from Northern Italy and immigrated to Cincinnati in 1954 – it's legit.)
Family-style portions will be available for dine-in only for $25. Adult meals are $8 and child/senior meals are $6. Salad, rolls and cookies are included. Soft drinks may be purchased for $1. Children may preview and play games that will be at the festival on Sunday, and win prizes.
Just check out what our food reviewers have to say:
"Yummy!" says McKinley Jones, a fourth grader at Woodfill.
"The spaghetti tastes good," says Johnny Gesenhues, a first grader at Woodfill. "There is a lot of sauce!"
"I love the lemonade!" says Macy Gesenhues, also a first grader at Woodfill. "It's the best!"
"I don't really like spaghetti but I love their spaghetti," says Ella Jones, a 5th grader at Woodfill.
Sunday's festival will feature an inflatable obstacle course (be extra kind to the parents supervising this thing), a silent auction (you can view the items but bid online), food, the loved Cake Walk, old-school games and prizes for all ages (because who doesn't want a Whoopee cushion?), an amazing basket raffle (seriously, win one of these and you'll need a truck to get it home), candy wheel (think: ring pops for days), body works (we were totally doing pink and purple hair before it was a thing), spiritwear, and the ever-popular Up for Grabs booth (yes, we have bikes again!).
"Last year was a very special year to be PTO president at Woodfill," Laura Meier says. "Thanks to the generosity of our community we recorded our largest Big Top ever. We succeeded in both raising money for our school and for creating a fun environment for our kids to play and interact with their friends and families. This success afforded us new and exciting opportunities as a PTO. The additional monies raised allowed us to give every single student $10 to use towards the purchase of books at the school book fair. The excitement and gratitude from our students was inspiring. We were also able to approve a grant request to each classroom in our school. Our PTO strives to impact students and classrooms directly and with the Big Top Festival being our only fundraiser of the year we depend greatly on its success and the support from our community. We are excited about the exciting year ahead of us and are truly appreciative of everyone's support."
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Zoey Beets, a fifth grader at Woodfill says the Cake Walk is her favorite game because "it's fun to play and you don't really need a strategy to win."
The Cake Walk is also Macy Gesenhues favorite game. "They play music while you walk around and then you can win the best prizes – cookies!" she says.
Mya Beets, a third grader at Woodfill likes Up for Grabs the best because "they have amazing prizes like bikes."
Ella Jones loves the Cake Walk and Up for Grabs equally – "because you almost always win something," she says.
McKinley Jones also likes Up for Grabs. "You can win silly stuff and some really cool stuff," she says.
"I like the throwing games because I like throwing," says Nora Albritton, a kindergartener at Woodfill.
Johnny Gesenhues loves them all. "There are so many games to choose from I can't pick one," he says. "They are all so much fun!"
But more so than the food, games and prizes are, perhaps, the memories made:
"My friend Noah's brother Adam won the Pop-a-Shot!" Johnny Gesenhues says about last year's festival. "It was exciting to watch him win and score all those baskets!"
Zoey Beets remembers, several years ago, winning a coupon in Up for Grabs for a goldfish and she expected to be given goldfish crackers when she turned it in. "She was surprised to find out it was an actual goldfish," says her mom, Angel Beets. "Apparently I told her we were not bringing home a goldfish that would live in a tiny bowl for a week and then die. I have to admit that does sound on brand for me ..."
"One year I won shampoo at the Up for Grabs booth," Ella Jones says. "I guess everyone needs shampoo!"
"We invite our cousins and we always have fun showing them all the cool things about Woodfill," Macy Gesenhues says. "I also love the bounce house. It's the best!"
McKinley Jones says she liked walking around last year's festival with five cakes from the Cake Walk.
"My favorite thing is getting to pick out prizes and hanging out with my friends," says Sydney Albritton, a fourth grader at Woodfill.
"The festival benefits our school in so many ways and it is a tradition I am humbled to be a part of," says Woodfill Principal Keith Faust. "Through my research over the years I have determined that the Fall Festival, now Big Top Festival, has been around since the 1950s. The festival not only brings a financial boost to our PTO, which helps to support things like our student field trips, teacher classroom grants, KY Kids Day, last day cookout, new new studio equipment, sensory equipment, and much much more."
And now, a short sidebar for a personal memory:
Many of you remember Harold "Baldy" Simmons, aka the Mayor of Grant Street. (If not, check out Chuck Keller's story here.) Simmons died at the age of 89 this past March. Many Woodfill students have gotten to know Simmons over the years – he was always sitting at the end of his driveway in his lawn chair, and he loved to watch Woodfill's annual Halloween Walk.
Simmons attended last year's Big Top Festival. I remember seeing him walk around with a huge trail of game tickets, simply giving them away so kids could play for free. And despite the cancer he was battling at that very moment, the cancer that would eventually end his life, he was smiling.
Back to Faust:
"But more than a financial contribution what the Big Top does is bring our community together," Faust says. "Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, community members, students and teachers all come together to celebrate one another and our school."
— Kara Gebhart Uhl