By Becca W.
Activities Director Paul G. and Admissions Counselor Chris S. shook up the annual Halloween routine and transformed the holiday into an entire weekend event. With the help of the kitchen staff, set designer Pam A., Christopher S.’s catering crew, and a few hardworking students, The Family School dressed up as “Ablewarts” (a spoof on the Harry Potter series’ famed boarding school Hogwarts) for an entire weekend of holiday fun.
The festivities really began earlier in the week, when Hagrid (Paul G. dressed up in a wild wig and fake beard) got up in front of the entire student body to announce the beginning of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Each of the four families chose a “Champion” (Tim R. from Talbot House, Maurissa H. from Mann House, George L. from Betton House, and Joe T. from Lake House) and all the Champions had to complete a set of five physical and mental challenges before the school-wide competition began that weekend. Additionally, all four FFS families adopted different names, to add a fittingly Halloween-esque element of disguise. Talbot House became “House of the Black Raven”; Mann House translated “House of Truth” into Latin and became “Casa de Verum” for the weekend; Lake House channeled Lackawanna University and became “Lackamawanna”; and Betton House became “Talindor,” inspired by Harry Potter’s House at Hogwarts, Gryffindor.
The room that was ordinarily the gymnasium was magically transfigured into the Great Hall on Friday, October 28. The walls were decorated to look like stone, floating candles twinkled from the ceiling and the lights were dimmed to set the eerie mood. The entire school enjoyed Friday night dinner at long tables set up underneath banners bearing each family’s initials. A purple and gold hexagonal box containing a chocolate frog (homemade by Paul G.) and a trading card bearing a picture of an FFS staff member was laid out in front of each seat at every table. Christopher S.’s catering crew, decked out in burlap like the house-elves of the Harry Potter series, served dinner to the young witches and wizards of Ablewarts Academy.
For the evening activity, the students watched Alejandro Amenábar’s psychological thriller The Others, starring Nicole Kidman, a suspenseful film which brings up questions of mortality and the dire consequences of selective vision. Everyone jumped out of their seats, and many students (and staff members) actually screamed!
On Saturday, the students ate all three meals in the Great Hall. During the afternoon, the students prepared their Halloween costumes and carved pumpkins for the Jack-O’-Lantern contest in the traditional spirit of the holiday. The evening feast was a special event, and for dessert, everyone enjoyed a delicious Harry Potter-themed Paul G. concoction: “Beerless Butterbeer!” The sweet treat was made of butterscotch and vanilla ice cream in a chocolate bowl topped with oodles of butterscotch syrup. Every witch and wizard was also provided with a shot of cream soda, which foamed and fizzed when poured over the sundae. After the dinner, the students split off to their houses to get ready for the night’s Halloween party.
Costumed students filed into the Great Hall, eager for the celebration to begin. Lively music filled the hall, and chairs were set up into oval configurations under each banner, foreshadowing one of the night’s activities. To kick off the evening, however, the Ablewarts witches and wizards showed off their creative ensembles in a costume fashion show.
A faux stone castle threshold was set up on the stage, and one by one, students climbed the stairs and modeled their elaborate getups. The costumes ranged from glamorous to gruesome, including a mob of Occupy Wall Street protestors, mad scientists, a giant baby in a pillowcase diaper, Iron Man, and 80s gym teachers. At the end of the show, Shane M. and Andrew D. judged the winners. Paul G. announced the awards: a pair of glittering mermaids, Talbot House’s Celise F. and Shannon S., won Most Creative; Talbot House’s Alex H., dressed as a cardboard box, won Best Costume Of The Night; Best Impression went to Lake House’s Sean D., who dressed as staff member Chris S.; and Talboteer Kevin D. won Scariest Costume with his creepy clown outfit.
After the costume contest, there was a quick break to enjoy the refreshments that were set up on a table in front of the stage. There were seasonal treats like cinnamon donuts, spiced apple cider, and hot fruit tea prepared by America R., as well as buttery bowls of popcorn and (of course) mounds of candy. Partygoers milled around the Great Hall and enjoyed their snacks, then went on to the next activity, musical chairs.
The four ovals of chairs set up under the house banners were then put to their purpose. The music played and the kids orbited the chairs. Round by round, the playing population thinned; finally, each family was left with one member (Tim R. from Talbot House, Tarek M. from Lake House, Keith F. from Betton House, and David R. from Mann House). Each house’s last member competed in a smaller circle, contending to be the last student standing. Tim R., Talbot House Champion, ended up winning that competition and therefore earning more points for the House of the Black Raven.
After another snack break, it was time for a drier, less messy adaptation of the classic Halloween game of bobbing for apples. Apples were stuck on Popsicle sticks which hung from long strings attached to the ceiling. Blindfolded players (“Gnawers”) were spun around until they were dizzy and helped by partners (“Guiders”) who directed them how to take a bite out of the hanging apple. For Talbot House, RJ O. gnawed and Zoe D. guided; for Betton House, Adam B. guided and Zach E. gnawed; from Mann House, Stephen R. gnawed and George L. guided; and Lake House’s gnawer was Jameson R., while its guider was Dan F. Jameson won this competition, and points were awarded to Lackamawanna.
The last and most elaborate competition of the night was an epic no-holds-barred battle between all four House Champions at the video game Rock Band. Each Champion chose an instrument on which to compete: Tim chose guitar, Joe T. chose bass, George L. chose drums, and Maurissa chose vocals. Each round, a different Champion chose the song and difficulty level. Students in the audience were very excited to listen to music and had a great time dancing and singing along.
For the final round, Tim R., the leading House Champion, had to face a new, more daunting opponent head-to-head: Harry Potter villainess Bellatrix Lestrange (otherwise known as Rock Band pro Carmen S. in an elaborate and terrifying getup). During the first round, she was able to choose the first song, while Tim chose the level; the second round, however, this was reversed. First, they juked it out to The Guess Who song American Woman; next, they competed to Santeria by Sublime, much to the audience’s glee. The games were intense, and both Bellatrix and Tim played hard; however, the House of the Black Raven Champion emerged victorious.
The next day, the entire school gathered in the gym for the all-day Quidditch competition, a magical sport from the Harry Potter series in which players compete on brooms. Ablewarts students played so hard that many of the brooms actually got dented! Talbot House, the House of the Black Raven, won this part of the competition, as well as the Jack-O’-Lantern contest, securing its win of the 2011 FFS Tri-Wizard Tournament.