Next month as summer break hovers just over the horizon, sixth graders at Stapleton Elementary will soulfully perform the “Homework Blues.”
And though they may be lamenting six more weeks til summer, they are overjoyed to be a centerpiece of a new community tradition.
The sixth grade band is helping to usher in a new era of a local tradition. Stapleton School is reviving the annual Bluegrass Festival, held in the town for decades until about 15 years ago.
When principal Jim Perry came to the school he realized that more fundraisers were needed to cover the most critical needs.
As the smallest elementary school in Baldwin County, serving less than 200 students, families could only carry the weight of so many fundraisers.
The traditional concert would be a delight for the community and benefit the school.
“It seemed like something we could manage,” Perry said. “It really seemed like a win-win.”
So far the festival is a grand slam. Corporate donors have pushed the school over its fundraising goal of $4,000 and brought in over $6,000. The amount includes a donation of $2,500 by the Poarch Creek Indians and another $1,000 donation from North Baldwin Utilities.
Students created the artwork for the festival logo and parents and community volunteers have stepped up to donate time and energy to the project
“It’s really been embraced by our town,” Perry said. “A lot of people have helped to make this happen.”
The tiny, unincorporated area has always been a tight-knit community.
Beverly Broadus, who attended Stapleton Elementary and worked in the front office for 25 years closes her eyes and pictures the Bluegrass Festival scene from decades past.
“All the people were sitting on blankets, couples would get up and dance, it makes me cry thinking about it,” she said.
Today she volunteers to teach in the after school program and is often working with the children of the children who attended the school when she worked there.
“This is a really special place,” she said.
Originally the festival was used to raise money to support the town’s ballpark. Perry said the small community works together so often that he knew they would come together to revive the event.
Last year’s fall festival was a joint event hosted by the school and two churches whose properties nuzzle up to that of the school’s.
The school’s gym is used in the after-hours by local fitness classes and many students host their birthdays on the playground on weekends.
“We’ve embraced the idea that this is a community asset,” Perry said. “The school and the churches are really the heart of this community.”
Funds raised by the festival will help Stapleton School build a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics lab in one of the historic buildings on campus.
Ultimately, Perry said, the school also wants to add an outdoor classroom to take advantage of the gorgeous oak grove that sits behind the school.
Both the band and students in the after school guitar program have been practicing daily to take their turn on the Bluegrass Festival stage.
They say they are excited to play for family and friends, excited to be on stage. But most of all, they are looking forward to helping out the place they call home.
“We really need more equipment,” said third grader and guitarist Hailey Floyd. “We need to raise money to make that happen. It’s a really good school.”