The Great Pumpkin Hunt
My first thought upon my return to school on Saturday was just a name: Chet Preisser. We know the name; we see his picture on the Master Teachers’ Wall; we associate his name with the mascot, the owls, as well as the Graland circus, the famous donkey cart, the Marionette Theatre, etc. Mr. Preisser wrote the tale about the Great Pumpkin (later revised by Ann DeBoe) and enjoyed playing the Great Pumpkin.
I should be saving this wonderful article Liza Baker wrote for the HILLTOP SCHOOL NEWS for Halloween, but it’s time in my mind to devote some of my ramblings to Chet Preisser, for he was here in 1928, the day ninety-four children from kindergarten to grade five began exploring a new school located at 30 Birch Street.
Here’s Liza, our guest columnist, for today:
"Now that fall has arrived, kindergartners at Graland Country Day School will soon hunt once again for the elusive Great Pumpkin. Over the past four years, I have truly enjoyed watching students participate in this honored tradition. and last year I got to experience the Great Pumpkin Hunt not only as a teacher, but as a parent with my daughter, Ella.
"Each year, students learn the story about Graland’s past, when, according to legend, pumpkins grew where the kindergarten buildings stand today. Because of their great faith in magic and fairy tales, kindergartners were the only people who could see the Great Pumpkin that lived in the patch and become its very special friends.
"The tall tale describes how the Great Pumpkin is still visible to kindergartners once each year, but only if they have a special orange dot on their earlobes. Each fall near Halloween, students hear the story, get their dots applied with orange marker, and prepare to follow a series of clues that takes them all around campus.
The twinkle in Ella’s eyes as she relayed the story to the family at dinner was magical. Throughout the night, she asked numerous times, “Mama, is my orange dot still there?” Like many of her friends, she also used the dot as an excuse to get out of a bath that night.
The next morning, kindergartners assemble and the scavenger hunt begins. Since no one older than kindergarten can “see” the Great Pumpkin, we all rely on students to describe what happens after the hunt. When all the clues are found, the Great Pumpkin is discovered dancing happily somewhere on campus, at which point the students usually break out into a run and chase it. For me, it was such a unique experience to watch Ella and her classmates sprint after the Great Pumpkin as I had seen hundreds of students do before her. While the Great Pumpkin has yet to be caught, it always leaves a special prize for its friends, the kindergartners, before it disappears for another year. The cauldron of candy is all students require to believe what they saw was real.
Ella still discusses the Great Pumpkin as one of her favorite memories of kindergarten, and I couldn’t agree more. It is a tradition that highlights a kindergartner’s innocence and ability to believe in magic.