It was a day of singing, surprises and blue and yellow balloons at St. Anne's Catholic School in celebration of a special day. The K-8 Catholic school commemorated its 90th birthday Wednesday, complete with plenty of cake.
Teachers have incorporated the 90-year theme into the classroom. Instead of celebrating 100 days of school, they will celebrate 90 days, and they're learning about the history of the school. The day's events were organized by the parent club and St. Anne's board of directors.
Father Brandon Ware led the students in a special Mass that morning.
Seventhand eighth-grade students competed in an egg relay, and Ware compared the fragile egg to the Catholic faith as something precious to pass on.
"There's 90 years of faith in Christ being passed down to our children. It's nice to be part of the long line of faith," Ware said after the celebration.
After Mass, the students assembled on the courtyard in front of a large box decorated to look like a birthday cake.
Principal Dennis Tarrico led the school of 250 in singing "Happy Birthday" to their school. The group ran through the tune twice. Then the St. Anne's panther leapt out of the "cake," waving pompoms. It was Lisa Dacruz, a parent at the school, in the mascot costume. Students cheered, then moved on to enjoy a slice of cake.
Students later competed in a scavenger hunt around the school using clues made up of bits and pieces of school history. The winning team would earn a pizza party.
Several St. Anne's alumni came to join the celebration, and recall their own memories of school days — especially the strict nuns who served as teachers.
"They taught you. These were well-seasoned nuns who knew how to teach. By the end of the year, you knew the subject," said Carl Wishek of Lodi. He graduated from St. Anne's in 1952, and his son John Wishek graduated in 2012.
Wishek remembers the old church, and the open mission-style corridors that let in the rain.
"It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and the heater didn't warm much but the church mice," he said.
Two women have been close friends since they met in first grade at St. Anne's School.
"I think it was because of the smaller classes, we were able to develop very close friendships," said Clara Berg Conrad, who graduated in 1957.
She and Ginger Stellatino Maggio traded stories about storing their sack lunches in a closet during class and swapping sandwiches. Students enjoyed movies in the auditorium, hot dog days and hot chocolate on First Fridays.
Maggio remembers helping her mother sew up a peasant skirt for a lesson in folk dancing, then a presentation to their families.
Other alumni fondly recall how closely the Catholic faith was intertwined with their lessons.
Angie Van Ruiten Rogan and her sister Jackie Van Ruiten Baysinger saw religion as a natural subject, similar to reading, writing or math.
"There was so much centered around our faith. It gave us a sense of community," said Baysinger.
More than 20 Van Ruitens have attended the school over the years. Today, the grandchildren can share their excitement for the upcoming harvest festival with their parents and grandparents.
"We've had a great experience. We loved it, and we sent our kids here to live their faith," said Rogan.