Last Thursday, May 27, was one of those special, memorable days on the Wardlaw+Hartridge calendar. Although I spent an exhausting 15 hours on campus that day, it was my favorite school day of the 2020-2021 academic year. Two signature events highlighted the final day before a much-needed and well-deserved long Memorial Day holiday weekend – Lower School Field Day and the 12th annual Cookin' Cabaret. If you love games and live entertainment, May 27 was a great day to be a Ram.
Two of our finest teachers and departmental leaders deserve an enormous amount of credit for leading two events that rank among my annual favorites on the school calendar. Lee Nicholls, whom Head of School Andy Webster called the "benevolent deity of Field Day" in a social media comment, orchestrated another outstanding Field Day. Sharon Byrne, Performing Arts Department Chair, introduced our community to the Cookin' Cabaret 12 years ago when she arrived at W+H and it has become a popular staple ever since. She and the students took it to another level this year.
What some folks may forget is that Mr. Nicholls and Mrs. Byrne are full-time teachers who work with students most of the day. Planning and executing these events are additional duties that they consistently fulfill with style and substance.
Our Lower School students had a blast playing with their classmates and friends on the rear athletic fields. It was great to see the camaraderie and friendly competition in person, while remote students also participated in challenges from home. Mr. Nicholls absolutely thought of everything to make this an awesome day for the Lower School. He even found a way to get the faculty involved in the final event, an egg and spoon race, which was very competitive and a little controversial.
Field Day ended with the traditional large group photo, which provided a challenge for me this year. Instead of taking a few small steps up the sideline bleachers to snap a photo of the participants on the turf field, I had to climb to the top of the tower to capture a wider angle of a socially distanced group of students and teachers. Although I was a bit winded and overheated, I'm proud to say I made it up and back without any pulled muscles.
After working up a sweat during Field Day, I'm grateful that Mrs. Byrne provided me with a new Cookin' Cabaret T-shirt for the evening performance. It was wonderful to see parents join students live and in person at the Cookin' Cabaret, which was held outdoors for the first time since its inaugural performance in 2010. And what a show it was!
All the performers were impressive and it was great to see the seniors who have endured a difficult final year of high school enjoy one final chance to shine before a live audience. Ensemble performers Simone Erachshaw '21, Brian Machado '21, John Papetti III '21, Leila Hernandez-Webster '21 and Neil Shah '21 and smooth saxophone player Nicolas Hernandez-Webster '21 left the W+H stage in style under the stars on an absolutely perfect weather evening.
From the warm sun of the afternoon on the fields to the comfortable cooler conditions of the evening in the amphitheatre, the W+H campus was alive with excitement. Although people wore face coverings, it felt like the good old days to see our community come together again.