Kindergarten students from across the area, decked out in brightly colored T-shirts representing their schools, marched around Don Adamson Field Wednesday morning, showing off and waving for parents and friends as the class of 2015 gathered in its entirety for the first time.
The students participated in Kinder-Friend Day at the Brainerd High School football field, singing for their parents, running through obstacle courses and races, and tossing balls around on parachutes.
Kindergartners from all eight Brainerd elementary schools, as well as St. Francis, Montessori and Family of Christ Lutheran schools, participated in the 16th annual kindergarten graduation ceremony and festivities.
Cathy Engler, principal at Riverside Elementary School and former kindergarten teacher, said Kinder-Friend Day is a chance for younger students to celebrate the completion of their first year of school. "It's a very positive and significant memory for our kids."
Theresa Thomas, a kindergarten teacher at Riverside, said 470 students were involved in this year's Kinder-Friend Day.
Kinder-Friend Day has been an annual event since Engler had a hand in starting it 16 years ago. The kindergarten teachers coordinate with the Brainerd High School band, which played "Pomp and Circumstance" as the students paraded around the track.
Students wore different colored T-shirts, corresponding to what school they attend, to make a colorful rainbow representing the diversity of their eventual graduating class in 12 years.
"The kids get to see how big their true graduating class is going to be, because we invite all the private schools, too," said Engler. Engler said the parents like the event because they also get to see how large their child's graduating class will be, especially if their elementary school is small.
Parents were invited to the half-hour ceremony at 10 a.m., but the rest of the day's activities were strictly for the grads.
Shelley Schmaltz, a parent volunteer whose daughter, Haley, attends Harrison Elementary School, said bringing all of the kindergartners together was awesome. "It's just awesome. It culminates a whole year of such a growing experience."
After the ceremony, students were split into six groups, and rotated between six activity stations on the football field. An obstacle course, bean bag races and parachute games were among the activities the children could participate in. Engler plays the part of a clown during the day to entertain the children.
Claire Lepage, from Whittier Elementary School, said one of her favorite things about kindergarten was learning how to make things, especially birds and nests.
Nick Stettler, from Garfield Elementary School, said he learned how to read and how to count past 100.
"We learned a lot of words," said Katrina Impola, from Whittier, who also said her favorite activities in kindergarten were playing in the playhouse and learning to count.
Lunch was provided for the students, and they were treated to a performance by championship yo-yo performer "Dazzling Dave" Schulte, from Minneapolis. Schulte is one of only seven National Yo-Yo Masters in the world, inducted into the National Yo-Yo Hall of Fame in 2001.
Students also listened to the musical talents of Kate Casper, a musician from Nisswa Elementary School. A sing-a-long and play added to the day's activities.
"It's a wonderful way to end the school year and celebrate," said Jennifer Owens, a kindergarten teacher from Garfield.
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