MANITOWANING – It was a beautiful morning for a day of community building and physical activity at the first-ever Assiginack Public School (APS) Track and Fun event, held recently in collaboration with the Township of Assiginack.
“It was an amazing day. We had lots of people from the community, lots of volunteers, parents and all our students and staff,” said Heather Pennie, APS principal.
The event has its roots in track and field events at the school but has since evolved to a social assembly.
“We’ve always done a traditional track and field day, but we really wanted to take some of the emphasis off competition and turn it into more of a community gathering and fun event,” said Ms. Pennie.
The day began with the standard track events that are part of a conventional school track and field day. Some students ran to the running track and arena located some 800 metres from the school and completed one lap around the track, which amounted to approximately a 1,500-metre distance for the first race. Those less inclined to longer-distance running could walk the distance to the track.
“At the school we have nowhere to run except the grass. The township prepares the running track every year and I remember even when I was a student here, the whole school would go to the track and run the events. Three years ago, we brought back that tradition,” said Ms. Pennie.
The Township of Assiginack ensured the running surface was smooth and even and applied the lane markers. They also measured out distance markers for the various races.
Around midday, the students and community members were treated to a barbecue. All the money collected from community members went back to the school.
“We were planning a barbecue lunch for the students anyway and decided it might get more people out and encourage them to take part if we opened it to the community as a fundraiser,” said Ms. Pennie.
The highly anticipated event was the Assiginack Community Cup competition. Three teams—APS staff, Assiginack township staff and Assiginack Family Health Team staff—engaged in a fierce competition for the inaugural award. This event was held over the lunch break so the students could cheer on their favourite teams and enjoy burgers and a show.
“Jackie White from the township and I brainstormed and she put together an obstacle course for the contestants to do,” said Ms. Pennie.
There was a rubber chicken accuracy toss, a ‘hungry hippo’ scooter game where challengers had to collect balls in a basket while riding on scooters, and an Indigenous tug-of-war-style game created by APS’ Ojibwe teacher. Ms. Pennie noted that traditional Indigenous games are a focus in her school’s physical education curriculum.
All during the events, the school had also set up smaller Indigenous games, a beanbag toss, jumbo Jenga and ‘schlocky,’ also known as box hockey.
The Assiginack Community Cup challengers brought out their best spirit wear, ranging from wigs to face paint and even a decorative grass skirt.
“Students were amazing with all their cheering and competing and it was a pleasure to work with the school on this community event,” said Ms. White.
It was a hard-fought battle, but the Township of Assiginack’s team eventually emerged victorious and walked away with the coveted Assiginack Community Cup—a sneaker mounted atop a bucket, all painted gold and adorned with the Assiginack All Stars logo.
“The township is honoured and humbled to win such a prestigious cup,” said Ms. White with a chuckle. “The team spent countless hours training on evenings and weekends to prepare for the event. We would like to thank Assiginack Public School and Assiginack Family Health Team for their efforts. While they fell short, they certainly tried hard.”
Ms. Pennie said she was incredibly pleased with how this first Track and Fun day turned out and that she hoped to continue it in future years.
“Hopefully we can get even more community involvement to keep people active and participating, and to highlight the fact that Assiginack Public School is a community school,” said Ms. Pennie.
Ms. White shared a similar sentiment, adding that her team is already preparing for even stiffer competition next year.