A handful of Kenyon Senior Living residents gathered in the lunch/activity room, draped in colorful bead necklaces, one of many objects vital to the Mardi Gras celebration.
On Feb. 25, Sandy Amundson, who works with Kenyon Sunset Homes activities, presented fun facts and trivia to the group in celebration of the holiday, teaching them all they need to know.
Although most residents were not familiar with the ins-and-outs of the holiday, that was not the case for one Catholic resident Allene Harty.
When asked what her favorite fact was that she learned, Harty laughed, saying she didn’t learn anything new, because she grew up Catholic and was already aware of how the holiday — most frequently associated with the city of New Orleans — is celebrated.
While smiling, Amundson said to Harty, “You learned how smart you are.”
Harty says the Mardi Gras lesson brought back a lot of memories for her, something she enjoyed.
The lesson also seemed to be more of a refresher course for one other resident sitting at Harty’s table, Ethel Thompson. During the trivia portion of the lesson, Thompson was able to answer nearly all questions correctly.
In Thompson’s eyes, she didn’t learn anything she needed to know.
Amundson began the lesson with the history of the holiday. She says Mardi Gras was first mentioned in North America March 3, 1699, by a French explorer camped by the Mississippi River. He knew that March 3 was observed as the holiday Mardi Gras in France, so he named the spot he was camped on Point du Mardi Gras. The name Mardi Gras actually means “Fat Tuesday.”
By the 1700s, Mardi Gras was celebrated in both Mobile, Alabama, and in New Orleans, Louisiana. She says today’s celebrations are not that different from the ones in the 1860s, since there are still parades full of floats and costumed people, as well as balls held each year. In New Orleans, the celebration is a major tourist attraction.
After the history lesson, residents were given a quick lesson on the basic facts of Mardi Gras, then they were tested on their knowledge. One of the facts was about the well-loved connection between Mardi Gras and King cakes.
When Amundson said each year their are 750,000 King Cakes sold in New Orleans, with 50,000 more shipped to other states, many residents grew surprised.
“They must make a lot of cakes,” said resident Steve Berge in astonishment.
Although the name may suggest otherwise, King cakes are made of a rich, brioche dough (like a pastry) and a wide variety of fillings like cinnamon, chocolate and cream cheese. The glaze and sprinkles are usually decorated with the bold colors associated with Mardi Gras. It is baked without a center, like the average Bundt cake. Partygoers typically eat the cake between Jan. 6, otherwise known as King’s Day or Twelfth Night, and Fat Tuesday. The colors also share a deeper meaning to the celebration, with gold representing power, green illustrating faith and purple representing justice.
What makes the King cakes stand out from other cakes, is one figurine someone “lucky,” may find in his/her piece. Each King cake has a tiny plastic baby. In the past, instead of a tiny baby, there may have been a coin, bean, pecan or pea found inside the cake. It is said that the person who receives the slice of cake with the baby has the next King cake party, or brings the cake to next year’s party.
Berge may have found interest in this aspect of Mardi Gras, but he says he wouldn’t necessarily enjoy it if he found a tiny plastic baby in his piece of cake. He enjoyed learning about the fact that Mardi Gras occurs 47 days before Easter every year, due to its proximity with Lent (which begins the following day, Ash Wednesday).
Even though almost all residents agreed that although traveling to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras celebration sounded like fun, they decided to leave that to the younger people. Berge, however, was one resident who disagreed saying he would like to go to New Orleans one day.
The lesson concluded with Amundson handing out crossword puzzles and coloring sheets to the residents to take with them, then residents were treated with coffee and cookies.
Amundson says it’s fun to learn things about different holidays/celebrations/cultures you may not be familiar with.
Theodor Seuss Geisel, recognized more by his pen name Dr. Seuss, is best known for wacky rhyming books like “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and “Green Eggs and Ham.”
In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, on Monday, and to celebrate the end of Read Like a Knight month, parents, grandparents and special guests were invited to Kenyon-Wanamingo Elementary School Friday to help participate in the festivities.
During Read Like a Knight month, students participated in a variety of reading activities like Walk around Wednesday, technology free family fun and Genre Passport Day throughout the month of March.
There were a wide variety of Dr. Seuss and superhero activities for students to participate in with their family/guests.
To begin the morning, family members/guests were invited to enjoy a mini-muffin, strawberries and a cup of coffee in his/her students’ classroom hallway.
In the classrooms, Dr. Seuss activities were available for students to test their creativity on crossword puzzles, coloring sheets or the opportunity to make (and decorate) Dr. Seuss hats.
Among the buzz in the hallways of laughter and conversation, the music room presented a quiet opportunity for students to read stories like “The Three Little Pigs” together as a group.
There were also several superhero photo opportunities available for students in the art room. Students were encouraged to wear a superhero cape and lie on a piece of paper on the ground, to look like they were flying in the sky. Along the other side of room, students could pose with Dr. Seuss while dressing up in colorful headpiece or holding fun-shaped props.
In the meantime, many students could be found relaxing in the Learning Lounge, eating their fair share of strawberries.
To encourage students to burn off some of their energy after eating muffins and strawberries, they could either go to the gym or the activity center. In the historic Evert Gym, students could “Rock their Superhero moves” with the various exercises listed on pieces of paper along the floor. While in the Early Childhood Activity Center, students could test their strength and agility in several different ways.
Given the district’s budget deficit, the Kenyon-Wanamingo School Board voted Monday to replace its full-time superintendent with one who will work part-time.
The board agreed to look for a superintendent to work about 21 hours per week (0.6 full-time equivalent). The salary range is between $72,000 and $78,000, with the total compensation (including the benefits package) negotiable, depending on experience and qualifications.
Sandy Gundlach, Director of School Board Services with the Minnesota School Boards Association, attended Monday’s meeting to help the board develop a search timeline, review hiring criteria, search procedures, determine stakeholder involvement (participation of interest groups in planning process) and advertising.
An online survey, set to help develop interview questions for the candidates, closed Feb. 24. Business owners/agriculture, community members, parents, staff members and students were encouraged to participate in the survey asking about a prospective superintendent. Respondents were asked to choose the top six areas of expertise, six of the most important traits or skills, the importance of previous experience as a superintendent and top six personal characteristics the next superintendent should possess.
A preliminary report provided by Gundlach at the meeting indicates that about 100 filled out the survey. Participants were looking for expertise in the following areas: budget and finance, the ability to deal with a declining/increasing enrollment, collaborative leadership and school reform (strategic planning). Some of the most important traits they selected were acting with honesty and in an ethical manner with the School Board, staff and community, a “people person” with proven abilities in human relations and communications, developing and directing an effective leadership team and experience in school finance. Personal characteristics that were among the top choices were someone who is an honest and ethical problem solver, a good listener, consistent, personable and transparent.
Two community listening sessions will also provide another outlet for input. They’re set for 6:30 p.m. March 9 at Kenyon-Wanamingo Middle/High School Media Center in Kenyon and 6:30 p.m. March 12 at Kenyon-Wanamingo Elementary School Media Center in Wanamingo.
School Board members were asked to select the six of the most important traits or skills they think the next superintendent should possess. Gundlach says although all traits/skills listed are duties of the superintendent and hold importance, the key traits/skills narrowed down by the board will be used to advertise for a superintendent.
The board agreed on four major categories of experience: school finance, someone who acts with honesty and in an ethical manner with the school board, staff and community, someone with knowledge of and experience with special education needs and/or a diverse student body and someone who uses curriculum and other resources to improve test scores. To help find the other two traits/skills, Gundlach asked the board members to speak up on why the specific traits/skills they chose are important.
Board member Kevin Anderson expressed his reasons for including knowledge of technology and web-based education curricula.
“That’s the direction education is going, in my mind we need to find someone who has a background in it … with experience in these things,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t matter the size of the district but, particular in a small district, technology will help us offer opportunities for students.”
Board member Rod Woock agreed, saying that providing students with more opportunities is something to consider.
“Technology is probably the way to go, somehow,” said Woock.
To add onto the technology or web-based trait/skill, Board Chair Marilyn Syverson said that innovation and creative thinking could also be included, since they are closely connected.
The information provided from the survey and the board’s personal preferences will form hiring criteria and information to include on the vacancy brochure that Syverson will approve on March 5. The board also agreed that prior experience as superintendent is preferred, but not required.
The MSBA will advertise the job on its website, receive applications and respond to applicants’ inquiries. April 3 is the deadline to receive applications. The board will begin to develop interview questions and procedures at its March meeting.
The last day of Interim Superintendent David Thompson’s contract is June 30. A new superintendent is expected to report to work July 1.