Students at Striplin Elementary recently celebrated the beginning of fall with a pumpkin decorating contest. Each class had a chance to turn its pumpkin into a character from a children’s book of their choosing.

Using googly eyes, yarn, paper and a number of other unique items, classes made renditions of characters like Pete the Cat and Junie B. Jones.

Once all 23 pumpkins were finished, they were put on display in the lunchroom for all to see. Judges also were brought in to declare which class had come up with the best design.

Superintendent Tony Reddick and Director of Student Services Dr. Donna Smoots visited from Gadsden City Schools to make their picks along with Johnny Parker, Sharon Maness, Kimberly Waters and Pastor Daniel Woodcock of Cornerstone Baptist Church. The church donated all the pumpkins used in the project.

Valerie Taylor, guidance counselor at Striplin, said she wanted to hold the competition as a way to get students involved in a celebration of the fall season. It also closely tied to a lesson she has been helping teach the students all month long.

The lesson is based around the “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” TV special and promotes that everyone needs a “great pumpkin” to believe in. Taylor said it's important to inspire students to follow their dreams and goals even when their classmates may not think they can achieve it.

Tying that into a pumpkin decorating contest turned that lesson into a more tangible feat as each class worked to make their pumpkin the greatest. Although it was a competition among students, Taylor said it was also a way to bring the school together.

“It just creates unity around the competition,” she said. “And it brings joy and a smile to the faces of all the students who see these pumpkins.”

Ms. Isom’s second-grade class received first place for its rendition of Oscar the Grouch, who was peeking out of a trash can. Second place went to Ms. Browning’s Kindergarten class for their Tin Man pumpkin from “The Wizard of Oz.” A pumpkin version of the mouse from “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” won Ms. Williams’s first-grade class third place in the competition.

Anthony Ash, principal at Striplin, said he was very impressed by how all the pumpkins turned out and appreciated the work Taylor put into it.

Both said they were grateful for the support of Cornerstone Baptist and other churches like First United Methodist Church of Gadsden who are frequently involved with the school.