Tiger Pride: New Era students get Halloween rolling.

October 29, 2021

Tiger Pride: New Era students get Halloween rolling.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

NEW ERA — A 20-plus year tradition at New Era Elementary School gets Halloween rolling.

The 200 fourth and fifth graders were revved up for the annual pumpkin roll Thursday afternoon, Oct. 28. Each classroom selects a designated student to roll a pumpkin down a steep hill on the northwest end of campus.

Retired paraprofessional and coach Betsy Tjapkes donated the pumpkins for the fun event. 

Student council class representatives choose which student has the honors of rolling the speeding squash down the hill. “They strategize who they select from each class to roll,” said Kara Vanderweele, principal of New Era and Thomas Read elementary schools.

Todd Kraai, who was the New Era Elementary School principal for 30 years, came up with the idea, said his son Travis Kraai, who is the school secretary.

“He started it, and we have continued it ever since,” said Kraai.

Elizabeth Scott’s class won the competition with Keller Meek’s speedy roll.

After the student challenge, the teachers and staff have a go at it. This year, media specialist Frances Colston won. 

“There was a lot at stake,” she joked.

Colston and the school’s behavioral specialist, Chelsea Hayes, were dressed as bright orange traffic cones — fitting costumes for the educators who handle traffic control on busy school mornings. 

One year, a teacher used his “decorating skills” to fill his pumpkin with weight, hoping to have an advantage over the other teachers. 

“He filled it with weight and taped it together and then it broke,” said Kraai. “We used to be able to decorate them, and he took advantage of it.” 

The fast hill gets used for sledding in the winter.

Hopefully, the tradition continues when the students move to the new elementary school that will be constructed as part of the district’s bond project. “Most likely we will have it two more years,” said the principal. It’s possible the tradition will continue at the new school.

“The kids just love doing it,” said Kraai. “They’re just so enthused by it.”

“They love seeing the teachers having fun with it,” said Hayes. 

So, what prize do they win for having the gourd that goes the farthest distance? “Bragging rights,” they said.

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