Keepers’ Day carnival returns to close out yet another unique school year

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After a pandemic-induced three year hiatus, the tradition of Keepers’ Day at Townsend Harris returned on Tuesday, June 14 with a whimsical “Alice in Wonderland” theme. Students were able to enjoy a multitude of festivities, such as movie screenings, carnival games, contests with prizes, and club-specific activities. Arranging such an eclectic event to unofficially end off the school year required weeks of preparation by both students and faculty members. 

Many Harrisites volunteered for the effort to ensure a successful spectacle for Keepers Day and reflected on their experiences. Rising senior Blessing Ogunsola said, “The thought of helping out and just contributing to a school tradition is what motivated me. I prefer to be on the inside in events like this, so I decided to volunteer.”

Rising sophomore Xintong Jiang said, “I’ve always wanted to experience what a school festival is since I’ve seen them on different forms of media and they looked like a lot of fun. I wanted to be a part of the process and see what I could bring to it in my first year here.”

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As for the responsibilities that volunteers faced during the festival’s preparations, rising junior Hellen Oliveira said, “I mostly took part in brainstorming games, food carts, and interactive activities. As for the actual event, I was one of the people chairing the morning session for Limbo. Because of how cooperative the Planning team was, balancing my activities and Keepers’ Day was no hassle at all. We all maintained great communication.”

“We discussed ways to make the event more fun for the students. It’s not a load at all, so I was able to manage it with other commitments,” Blessing added.

In addition to a carnival company running a set of inflatable attractions, various faculty members oversaw different aspects of the event. Music teacher Kevin Heathwood scheduled musical performances from students and teachers throughout the day; Social Studies teachers Blayne Gelbman and Frank McCaughey ran a trivia game show; Social Studies teacher Raymond Grohosky ran a Super Smash Brothers tournament. Others helped set up food offerings. English teacher Katherine Yan invited and coordinated three food trucks for lunch; Japanese teacher Mariko Sato worked with a team of students to create a “Japanese Corner,” which offered food and activities; Science teacher Joel Heitman worked with the Robotics team to hold a “Mad Hatters’ Bubble Tea Party.” English teachers Ryan Dunbar and Kevin McDonaugh worked with Math teacher Abid Choudhury to host water balloon games and contests. English teacher and Classic advisor Brian Sweeney continued on as the head organizer of Keepers’ Day, coordinating the student and teacher groups and working with the THHS administration to make the event happen.

Hellen said, “All the teachers involved…have put their all into creating an experience catered to our school community.” Since only the senior class had experienced a Keepers’ Day before, Hellen said that she was looking forward to taking part in it for the first time. “It’s an understatement to say that I’m excited,” she said.

Xintong said, “When you sign up to volunteer, you can specify the aspect of the festival you want to contribute to. I chose the Design and Decoration Department. Mr. Sweeney was very supportive and helped me a lot with my designs, advising me on what features of each design I should preserve and what I should change.”

At the end of the event, English teachers Natali Frank, Sarah Levine, and Katherine Lipinski hosted a prize drawing in the auditorium. 

Xintong added that the festivities “acted as a destresser for a lot of people since the Regents are coming up.”

Keepers’ Day marked a celebratory end to the 2021-2022 school year. The following week saw exams, prom, graduation, and the last day of school, a series of events that were all in-person and provided as “normal” an end to the school year as one could expect since March 2020.

Photos by Erica Lee and Elliot Heath