The Group: West Liberty-Salem Elementary PTO, Ohio

The Setting: The elementary school’s first fall festival in 10 years. PTO President Penny Higgins and her crew of organizers worked for months preparing details and readying the two gyms, cafeteria space, and hallways for the occasion. Their plan was an all-evening affair packed with a live auction, raffles, book fair, cakewalk, games, prizes, and a smorgasbord of food for some 500 families.

The Idea: Set up a booth where volunteers Julie Markin, Traci Ritter, and their husbands could pour and mix teeth-tingling sugar, whirl it on a wand, and sell the cotton candy concoction. "We did it thinking it would add atmosphere," Higgins says.

What Went Wrong: The booth added atmosphere to the festival, all right; hovering high above were cumulus clouds of cotton candy—thanks to a machine with no shield to catch the swiftly spinning goo.

What Happened Next: "There were cobwebs of cotton candy," Higgins says. "We had cotton candy on the volunteer parents, on the walls, and on...a very high ceiling." In fact, she says, more of the sweet fluff was used for decorative than delectable purposes that day.

The Outcome: "Thankfully our elementary principal, Mrs. Sparks, is very understanding and supportive," Higgins says. "PTO parents and volunteers helped clean the school."

Notable Quote: "We figured, cotton candy and kids...you can’t go wrong," Higgins reports. For next year’s circus, she adds, "we’ve already ixnayed the cotton candy."

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