Fun and friends with an international flavor

March 13, 2003

International Day, held Saturday at River Hill High School, surprised the parents who organized it. Karen Titus of Clarksville Elementary and Irene Halkias and Gina Harrison of Pointers Run Elementary expected the event to draw about 600 visitors.

"We had a total of 1,100 people. It was really unbelievable," Titus said.

Last year, Titus coordinated the first International Day at Pointers Run, with costumes, activities, traditional foods, and passports for visitors traveling from one "country" to the next.

But in August, about 200 children from Pointers Run Elementary were moved to Clarksville under redistricting, including Kristina and Michael Titus. When their mother suggested an International Day sponsored by the PTAs of both schools, Halkias and Harrison offered to help.

"We thought that combining the two schools and working together would be a great way to ... get the kids to see their old friends and their teachers, and a good way to keep the community together," Titus said.

The project was a huge success. "I saw teachers from Pointers Run talking to teachers from Clarksville, and I saw kids seeing kids that they used to see and haven't seen since school ended last year," Titus said. "My daughter was so excited; she loved her kindergarten teacher [Sherry Eulitt], and she spent time walking around with her."

Flags of 12 countries flew in the River Hill lobby. In the cafeteria, parents in costume served ethnic foods and children played versions of boccie, cricket, baseball and basketball.

"We had people doing calligraphy on bookmarks that said `Year of the Ram' on them," said Denise Panyik-Dale, who adopted her daughter, Madeleine, 9, from China and led the booth for that country. "And we had a game called Touch the Nose, which is basically Pin the Tail on the Donkey. We had noodles made of yarn so people could practice using chopsticks. We had homemade mooncakes made by [parent] Qing Xie."

Everyone at the China booth dressed in a traditional "qi pao, a form-fitting dress with a Mandarin collar," she said.

Anna Mancuso, whose parents came here from Germany, led the booth for that country, and Monika Punjabi ran the booth on India, Titus said. At the South Korean booth, Young Na and Christina Kim served "something called a mandoo, like a pot sticker," Titus said. The United States booth sold 100 hot dogs in a half-hour, and a father ran out to buy more.

Entertainment included Irish step-dancers, a tarantella danced by pupils from Celeste Riccio's after-school Italian class at Pointers Run, German dancers, a tae kwon do demonstration and a silent auction of baskets filled with traditional foods and other items.

Second-graders from both schools sang "Fifty Nifty United States," Harrison said.

"I think everybody just focused on the kids having a good time in a really fun, educational way," Titus said. "With everything that's going on in the world, it just seemed like a really neat thing to do."

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