Most Friday afternoons, parents, teachers, and students head out of Gulf Beaches Elementary Magnet School to begin their weekends. But on the evening of Friday, Nov. 4, a crowd of over 300 people gathered at the St. Pete Beach school in order to start their weekend – with popcorn, sandwiches, and a movie under the stars.
While the school is well known for its annual Fish Broil, outdoor movies (playfully dubbed “Flicks with Finley” after the school’s aloha-shirt-sporting shark mascot) are a newer tradition. It started with COVID, explains GBEMS PTA Vice President Tiffany Crosson. When the pandemic made the Fish Broil impossible, the PTA began hosting films in the park at nearby St. Pete Beach Community Center.
Under a beautiful sunset, the younger kiddos ran around and played, and families settled in for a picnic and enjoyed a showing of the Thanksgiving-themed film “Free Birds.”
Meanwhile, parents and faculty browsed an impressive silent auction that had been set up in the school’s cafeteria. Bidders thoughtfully perused 140 different items, including everything from gift certificates to local restaurants and stores, to a variety of well-equipped gift baskets, to luxury hotel stays, to tickets for a South African safari. A crowd favorite was framed “stick quilts,” a colorful collection of popsicle sticks painted by students in each grade, then artfully arranged into geometric patterns.
Between $8,800 from 18 local sponsors and $10,700 from the auction, the PTA raised approximately $19,000. The priority for these funds, explains Crosson, will be supplying classroom grants that enable teachers to purchase supplies without coming out of their own pockets. The funds may also be used to support additional needs for instruction. Proceeds from last year’s auction helped to secure a much-needed printer.
As important as raising these funds is, says Crosson, now in her second year in the PTA, there is something to be said for this very special GBEMS way of doing so. “I just love opportunity to come together as a school and do something. I love the way we make it a community thing.”
Not a bad start for a new tradition. And just in case you were worried – yes, the Fish Broil will be back this spring.