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PELHAM — The sound of giggling children echoed through the woods as the canoe rounded the corner, causing a frenzy of flashbulbs from a long line of eagerly awaiting parents on the banks of Beaver Brook.

Keeping the annual tradition alive for a 14th year, third-graders from Pelham’s St. Patrick School dressed as American Indians and made a quick canoe trip along the brook during the school’s Harvest Festival on Oct. 17.

A group of second-graders, dressed as Pilgrims, waited patiently in a nearby field for the arrival of the third-graders.

Each year, the second- and third-grade classes at St. Patrick School spend four weeks learning about the history of Thanksgiving. Second-graders focus in class on the Pilgrims while the third-graders learn about the indigenous people of the region.

At the end of the lessons, the children celebrate with a giant feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and other traditional favorites.

“Being a Catholic school, we teach the children about being grateful for what you have,” said second-grade teacher Leanne Robertson.

Principal Roger Dumont and the Rev. Robert Guillemette surprised everyone when they arrived wearing traditional Native American dress and face paint for the first time in the history of the event.

“We decided to go all out this year and join the kids enthusiasm,” said Dumont.

Seven-year-old Madison Laurent spun around the field in her black-and-white Pilgrim frock as she waited for the arrival of the American Indians. Parents helped the kids at home to prepare their costumes during the weeks leading up to the event.

Drums, which the children learned about then wrote stories about to share with their classmates, were painted with brightly colored symbols.

“Dressing up is definitely the favorite part for the kids,” said Robertson, who also had a third-grade daughter participating in the event.

The two grades of very excited children exchanged greetings in the field before heading off to the great hall to eat a meal prepared by school staff and parents.

“The parents also do the cooking and all the prep work for the meal, this would be nothing without the parents’ support,” said Robertson.

Before dinner, some of the Pilgrims stood before the class to recite a list of things they had learned from the Indians and to give thanks for their blessings.

Have a story idea? Contact Heidi Smith at 978-970-4653 or e-mail at hsmith@thevalleydispatch.com.