More than a century of classroom-based activities and the fellowship that has taken place inside and outside of those walls is about to be celebrated in style in Fort Smith.
St. Boniface Catholic School's 130th Anniversary & Lawn Social will be 5-10 p.m. Oct. 6-7 at the school, 201 N. 19th St., and the sights and sounds will comprise one of the "most unique and special" experiences to be had by community members, said Jason Hurst, the event's chairman.
Activities like a silent auction, food, the Crush the Car event, Bingo and other games, face-painting, train rides and five large cash prizes will help make the weekend memorable for all while contributing to "a really good" cause, he said.
"This is our largest fundraiser for the year," Hurst said of the event, which will raise money for St. Boniface Catholic School. "The money that is raised will go to the school's general fund, so that over time, that money can be used to help pay for school-related needs as they occur.
"It costs the public zero cents to attend — it's free admission — but of course, there will be food and certain activities that will cost a little," he added. "There will be three large inflatables for kids to play on, and there's an armband people can purchase for events."
Hurst, who hopes this year's Lawn Social will raise more than $50,000, said those children and adults who attend the event will be treated to the tastes and smells of numerous food items from a variety of vendors. Hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken strips will be seen near Asian-American food such as spring rolls and fried rice, he said.
"People will have choices like chicken on a stick, as well as Hispanic food like street tacos, enchiladas and street corn," Hurst said. "There will be lots of different types of ethnic food, which will be exciting, and of course, pizza will be there, too."
The Lawn Social's silent auction also will draw the interest of those attending, he said. On the auction table will be tickets to the Memphis and Little Rock zoos, various pieces of jewelry, clothing and adult beverages, Hurst said.
"It's interesting and exciting that this Lawn Social has been going on for 130 years; the city of Fort Smith is 200 years old," he said. "That history connection is great."
Lawn Social attendees also will have their chance to win cash prizes throughout the weekend, and each winner doesn't have to be present to win, Hurst said. The cash prizes are $5,000, $2,000, $1,500, $1,000 and $500, he said.
"Chances to win these cash prizes are $20 for a book of 25 tickets, or $1 single tickets," Hurst said.
More than 1,000 people are expected to attend this year's Lawn Social, said Rebecca Kaelin, elementary school principal for St. Boniface.
"So many people walk in because to this open event; they come from different parishes and from different towns, which makes it fun," she said.
The band Talasox will perform Oct. 7, while area cheerleaders are scheduled to demonstrate their numerous cheers and dance moves during the evening of Oct. 6, Kaelin said.
"We are revamping our Lawn Social's field attractions," she said. "We have five inflatables, and two of them are game inflatables — Tic Tac Toe and Hula hoops.
"We are revamping but we're also keeping it very traditional, because this has been a great community-building event within our parish and within our students, and it also has been a great city event," Kaelin added. "The city of Fort Smith has been here for 200 years, so there's so much history between the city and St. Boniface."
Currently educating 126 students who range in age from pre-K through the sixth grade, St. Boniface started out with classes for students in kindergarten through the eighth grade, she said.
"There was no junior high here back then, and the school easily had 48 kids in one classroom," Kaelin said. "You would have nuns in the classroom, and the classrooms would be desk to desk to desk."
St. Boniface's "new" section was "created in the 1950s and 1960s" as a way of keeping up with the school's growing student population, she said.
"Even the principal back then was a teacher, and there was no air-conditioning in the building back then, so things have changed quite a bit since then," Kaelin said. "Now we have bigger classrooms, and it's interesting to hear some of the alumni when they walk through our building. They'll say things like, 'We didn't have air-conditioning in here so we'd open a window back then,' and 'You have a lot of room in here now.'"
Another unique aspect of St. Boniface School is the fact that an endowment board pays for all extra-curricular activities for students and virtually all field trips, she said.
"Students don't have to pay for a fee to play baseball or basketball, or to be involved in chess and homework lab; that is all free for our students," Kaelin said. "We are very blessed in that way."
Hurst predicted that many of those who will show up for the upcoming Lawn Social will be St. Boniface alumni.
"We've sent letters and invitations out to alumni in California, Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas," he said. "And we'll get people from all over Crawford and Sebastian counties for this event."
Like Hurst, Kaelin said she predicted that many alumni will make the 130th annual Lawn Social a "special community event."
"A lot of alumni attend, participate and volunteer, and we couldn't do this without our alumni staff," she said. "We set up volunteers by calling Trinity, Northside High School, Southside High School and they all volunteer, and we contact junior highs, clubs and boosters who need volunteer hours to help. It's such a big event, so we want to make sure it is staffed appropriately."