Cherry Blossom Festival Journal

Sunday April 11th, 2010

1:39 PM – On the bus to go home and watching a move.(Caitlin)

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

5:37 PM – Back at the hotel — WOW the kids did a great job today during the parade! There were lots of comments from the crowd and throughout the day in DC when they saw the kids in the shirts. The announcer mentioned that the Woodside One Wheelers were the youngest performers in the parade this year. Getting ready for dinner. Up early in the morning for breakfast and an 7:00 am departure. (Mr. Pulsifer)

7:15 AM – Wi-Fi is back up!. The Woodside One Wheelers are ready to go! Eating breakfast and the loading onto the bus at 7:45. The parade starts at 10:00 am with our estimated start around 10:30 – 10:45 am. Check out the video feed on the internet. Pictures will be up tonight as long as the Wi-Fi is. (Mr. Pulsifer)

Friday, April 9th, 2010

8:12 AM – We are on the bus and heading into Washington DC for the day. The plan is the Lincoln Memorial, Korean, WWII, Vietnam, The White House, Washington, and then the Air and Space. I will post pictures tonight. (Mr. Pulsifer)

8:15 AM – We made it to the hotel last night! Yay! we are headed for a monument tour. the bus is really quiet now. we’re very tired. can’t wait for tomorrow! 😀 (Courtney) I woke up early and tired. now we’re on the bus and we’re still tired. (Caitlin)

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

6:18 PM – We are all checked into the hotel and getting ready for a team pizza dinner at 6:30 PM. Then off to bed and up early for touring around D.C. tomorrow. (Mr. Pulsifer)

5:02 PM – We just went through Baltimore. Around 1/2 hour to go! (Mr. Pulsifer)

4:51 PM- It’s been a long bus ride but we are almost there. Watching the end of “Milo and Otis.” (by Connor Dailey)

4:27 PM – Were so bored the bus ride is so long were all going CRAZY! (by Stedman)

hi! peps :p im so bored we woke up so early to get on a bus and set for 14 hours! can’t wait to get to the hotel and get settled in and to be in the parade i love you mom and dad thank nana see you when I get back

4:18 PM – Almost there, watching milo and otis (movie), tired, I LOVE SKITTLES! (Courtney) P.S i like cheese more than Courtney! (Caitlin) lol not as hyper a before… kinda tired…. i figured out that u can eat the wrapper of stride gum with it and it will turn into actual gum! (Kristin)

3:42 PM – Back on the road and into Delaware. We are about 1.5 hours from the hotel (minus any traffic) (Mr. Pulsifer)

2:55 PM – Coming up on our last stop before the final stretch. We should arrive at the hotel a little after 5:00 pm (Mr. Pulsifer)

12:48 PM – I gave Sawyer a pair of my toe-socks, and my flip-flops. His toe nails are painted, he put his foot behind his head, and now he wants to go shopping for some more flip-flops, toe-socks, and nail polish. This is one fun bus ride! lol ;D (Kristin)

11:45 AM – Kristin and Courtney and caitlin again! 😀 still crazy/hyper … cameras everywhere … NOSE! =D =D =D lol just fished playing a game… robin won. poop. haha (caitlin say hi :D:D:D:D) (love, Courtney, Kristin, Caitlin, I ❤ u!)

11:33 AM – Heading down I-95 in CT towards New York City. Coming up on our lunch break stop in about a half and hour.

9:55 am – Hey! It’s Kristin and Courtney! We are trying to get all of our immatureness out.. ha ha

yeah right! We’re watching (“watching”) Happy Feet right now. (Kristin & Courtney) =D

9:48 am – Back on the road.. Next stop Darien, CT (Mr. Pulsifer)

9:28 am – Coming up on our first stop in Charlton, MA. (Mr. Pulsifer)

6:20 am – The bus departed from Woodside Elementary School. A big WOW thank you to Jon Cahill and the Gym Dandies for giving us a surprise snack for the trip. (Mr. Pulsifer)

One-wheeling students seek the smell of cherry blossoms

One-wheeling students seek the smell of cherry blossoms

From the Portland Press Herald – 2/17/2010

Training on top of a 5-foot-high unicycle isn’t exactly what Courtney Hall had in mind when she first signed up for juggling lessons as a third-grader at Woodside Elementary School in Topsham. She joined the after-school club four years ago to “try something new.”

Now 12 and a seventh-grader, Hall looks forward to being in the 2010 National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in Washington, D.C., on April 10 as a member of the Woodside One Wheelers, known as WOW.

And WOW is more than an acronym for the group; it is also the response Hall and other performers elicit from crowds who watch their acts. The shows feature mostly elementary school students balancing atop circus balls while juggling pins and clubs and doing unicycle routines.

The group grew from a one-man show into a nearly 70-student club that meets weekly at the school to practice circus arts.

At the center of this ring of intrigue is Eric Pulsifer, the school’s physical education teacher. School Principal Rick Dedek, a member of the Scarborough-based circus arts group the Jim Dandies, helped Pulsifer perfect his juggling skills. The program naturally evolved from there.

“Being a teacher, I’m always looking for something different and exciting to offer our kids,” said Pulsifer. He offered juggling lessons to a handful of students who signed up for the program. The pin-tossing segued to balancing moves on top of large circus balls and, by year’s end, the children were riding unicycles.

“They start out juggling scarves, then bean bags, then balls and pins or clubs,” said Pulsifer. “For the unicycles, they are outfitted with pads and helmets and taught how to fall. They are going to do a lot of that. So, we teach them how to do it safely. It’s about balance and perseverance and repetition.”

Courtney Hall agrees.

“I got frustrated a few times but I was pretty determined to do it,” she said. “You have to focus on keeping your feet on the pedals and looking straight ahead instead of at the ground. And, you have to figure out how to get off the unicycle when you feel you’re going to fall.”

Hank Gilson, 11, also rides one of the 5-foot unicycles, known as giraffes. “It took me about a month and a half to learn. I fell a lot at first and took it home to practice,” he said.

Ceci Gilson, mother of Hank and Riley Gilson, 8, also a WOW member, said her boys could not wait to join.

“I took them to the shows before they were old enough to join the program,” she said. “I tear up just watching these kids. It’s quite amazing.”

Beyond the fitness and agility benefits, Pulsifer hopes to teach kids that they can set and achieve goals by working hard and practicing.

“I’ve noticed that most of the kids in our group that are successful are those for whom things do not always come easy,” said Pulsifer.

During school performances, club members are asked to share their experiences and goals with the audience.

Diane Hall, Courtney’s mother, said the program offers a place for all students who are willing to try, from kids who excel academically and athletically to those who don’t.

A parent-teacher partnership purchased the first few pieces of equipment. Registration fees for later programs supplied money for more equipment that today includes five circus balls and about 30 unicycles.

At first, the club put in requests to perform at various public and sporting events. Now, it is receiving invitations to do so. The group has a busy spring schedule, including its second halftime show at a Maine Red Claws game April 3 at the Portland Expo. That event will be preceded by the group’s fourth annual community performance on March 12 at Mount Ararat High School in Topsham.

However it’s the gig in the nation’s capital that is creating the most buzz. The club also is hosting various events to raise the nearly $20,000 needed to pay for the trip.

Hall and her peers meet weekly to work on individual skills and practice group routines for the mile-long parade, in which they’ll likely perform three short programs each about 2 minutes long. And, they’ll have to do a lot of creative pedaling in between those routines to stay on the unicycles as they wait for others to perform.