Children pull their parents through the halls, faces painted in multicolored images. Choirs sing songs filled with the joy of the new season. Carefully painted artwork lines the walls, each stroke perfected with hopes of being featured. All these sights and sounds can be found at Prince George County Schools’ Annual Spring Fling.
Art teachers Elizabeth Rothera and Rebecca Stroop have participated in the event for years. Rothera runs the face painting station while Stroop was the lead coordinator at last year’s event.
“In the past I have always been in charge of the face painting booth. I professionally face-paint on the weekends at festivals, birthday parties and corporate events, so that’s an area of expertise for me,” Rothera said.
“[I worked with] concessions, signs, raffle baskets, awards, public relations, art activity tables, and lead coordinator from 2005-2009 & 2012 -2016,” Stroop said.
Rothera trains her students to present their best work at the festival. Students devote time after school to perfect the difficult craft.
“In order to prepare my students to face paint I have them stay after school a couple times a week for about a month leading up to Spring Fling. I start off by painting a few of their faces so everyone can see my technique and it gets them excited about doing it. Then I give them a run down of the important ways to run an efficient face painting booth. For example, we don’t take requests because then they would have to paint something they’ve never done before and probably wouldn’t represent their best work,” Rothera said.
Rothera utilizes her face-painting clients as a way to encourage others to visit the booth.
“In my own business, the way I see it is that the final look is a walking advertisement for more people to come to my booth and get their face painted. If I paint something I’ve never done before, it may turn out looking really bad, if I do that and then that kid is walking around the event with this horrible face paint, I may end up losing potential customers. Most importantly, my students are still pretty young and they’re growing as artists, I want them to feel confident in what they are painting, so it’s best to paint only what we’ve spent time learning and practicing,” Rothera said.
Stroop handled the details of the events for the past four years.
“As lead coordinator, I handled the details & logistics of planning a festival to accommodate a few thousand people over the course of four hours. Recruiting volunteers, guest artists, collaboration with custodial staff, scholarship program, recertification points for teacher volunteers, collaborating with the PG police dept. for security and parking, and so on,” Stroop said. “If there was a problem prior, during, or after festival, I did my best to solve or fix it to ensure that the event would run smoothly for our guests and volunteers.”
This year, the event is experiencing a change in location, which also means a change in leadership.
“This year the event will be organized by both art teachers at Prince George High School, with every transition there are always bumps in the road or things that are changed during the hand off. There’s also the major differences in the layout of the two schools which will automatically change things,” Rothera said. “Ms. Eliades was a big part of organizing the Spring Fling during the first years it was held in the county, so I have confidence that we’re in good hands with this year’s event.”
Both Stroop and Rothera shared the hope that the change in leadership also offers more opportunities for students to get involved with the event.
“Since the event is organized by the high school which houses so many different clubs and organizations, I would hope that there would be more student involvement by the high school students,” Rothera said. “For example, Teachers for Tomorrow could sponsor the face painting booth and have students take shifts there to help supervise and work alongside the middle school students. Each club could sponsor a different booth and make it even more about the students in the county. With my experience assistant coaching varsity field hockey at the high school, I know there are plenty of students at the high school that are strong leaders, it seems like the perfect opportunity to have more student involvement and let the students shine.”