The Family Festival is always a banner event, but this year was different, mainly because for the first time ever the Family Festival was online! The first Burke's Family Festival was held in 1931, and this year Burke's continues a proud tradition of celebrating our students and their families.
Moving the Family Festival from in-person to online, while also keeping the same elements of fun and excitement for attendees was a huge undertaking, and we are beyond thankful to all our volunteers, faculty, and staff members that worked tirelessly to make Family Festival a roaring success.
In a pre-pandemic year, almost 2,000 people come to campus to enjoy a day of playing, eating, and shopping. This year’s Festival kicked off on Friday with a magic show, cocktail party and virtual dance party and continued through the weekend. Burke’s also partnered with local Burke’s family-affiliated restaurants so that festival-goers could order delicious food throughout the weekend while supporting the restaurants and their employees. A generous group of Boutiques invited shoppers in over the weekend and donated a portion of their proceeds to Burke’s.
Saturday included a tye-dye session hosted by Upper School Science Teacher Susan Deemer, an Upper School digital escape room, and plenty of cooking, baking, and cookie decorating. The day was capped off with Burke’s BINGO and cocktails (or mocktails) for the alumnae community hosted by former Upper School Director Rebekah Wolman.
Among the other special Saturday events were Burke’s Bakers parties for the Lower and Upper Schools led by a James Beard Foundation chef who is also a Food Network Chopped Champion. Kindergarten parent volunteer and organizer, Patricia Picache stated “Burke's Festival is a special expression of community, and I hope the students see how much they are appreciated and loved during this challenging life chapter. Finding a way to keep Zoom interesting and fun for both the girls and parents is a challenge, but being able to connect with friends while also putting new faces to names is always fun.”
Historically, The P.A. Inclusivity & Community Building Committee (ICBC) has hosted a quiet room as a calming space during Festival, to ensure that the event was inclusive of all children and families attending, and to provide relief from the excitement of the event for those that desired it. This year, the ICBC decided to host the first-ever Cultural Corner featuring ‘Indian Home Cooking’, as a virtual replacement in order to highlight inclusivity, which is an integral aspect of every Burke’s event. This year’s Cultural Corner was hosted by a brand new Burke’s dad, Sugam Jain, who volunteered to be both chef and guide for the Indian Home Cooking class. The chosen menu included Palak Paneer (Saag Paneer), Bhuna Chawal (Cumin Rice) and Mango Lassi and was enjoyed by over 50 Burke’s families in their home kitchens.
“I’m excited that this is our first Festival, I really enjoyed sharing my family’s culture with the Burke’s community. I hope all the families enjoyed this new experience and it helped to expand their culinary and cultural horizons.”
Eighth Graders got to start their Sunday with a special alumnae-hosted #SundaySweat, curated specially for the class of 2021, and the entire Upper School was gifted with a professional hip hop dance class in the afternoon. Sunday’s festivities also included Roblox, online parlor games like BINGO and Family Feud, arts and crafts, and cookie decorating.
Festival parent volunteer Katja Björner Gutierrez said, “The challenge was to reimagine, and not let the general tiredness of the pandemic rule. It takes brainpower and creativity and people coming together. When I saw the Festival offerings roll out, I thought, this is Burke’s! I love how we translated Burke’s Festival into a weekend of sharing that brought us all together.”