HAMLET — Walking down the hallway of Hamlet Middle School on Tuesday morning, one couldn’t help but get a sense that love of country and being thankful for those that risk their lives is being taught to the students.
Eighth grade social studies teacher Ralph Butler had his classroom door decorated with stockings hanging from a fireplace. Each branch of the military was identified on the stockings. And it all began with a little fine art.
“(I) decided to bring culture into the kids,” said Butler, noting there are constraints to taking students on a field trip.
Principal Jim Butler said that Hamlet was missing a strong fine arts program — so he and teachers decided to do something about it.
“Any time you can get nearly 600 kids to sit quietly and listen to a cello and flute being played, it’s a good thing,” Butler said.
To be able to put on the sixth annual Ram Fest, the school had a candy sale. In addition, the students paid $12 each for a two-day admission ticket to Ram Fest that came with a Ram Fest commemorative t-shirt. The students are also allowed to wear blue jeans during the two-day event.
“Ram Fest is fun, and has gotten better each year I’ve been here,” Leah Lute, an eighth grade student.
While the middle school group is ripe with peer pressure, Ram Fest allowed students to put down their guard.
“I will get to sing obnoxiously and nobody will care,” said eighth-grader Sterling Riddick in advance of hearing Tuesday afternoon’s scheduled cover band, Too Much Sylvia.
At 10:30 a.m., Butler introduced the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division All-American Chorus. The gym had been fairly quiet up until this point, but the crowd was now cheering. The event was a hands-down favorite, even for teachers.
The group’s song list included “Lean on Me,” “My Girl,” “Some Nights,” “In the Still of the Night” and “American Soldier.”
“My Girl” was dedicated to all the ladies over 18 years of age in the audience. “In the Still of the Night” had Bryan Vaiagae serenading some girls in the front row, which led to some friendly screaming from other jealous girls.
The gymnasium sounded like the concert of a male pop icon. Girls in the front row yelled that they loved the group at one point. Before the last song, “American Soldier,” it was announced that the group would be going to Rohanen Middle School in East Rockingham, which was frowned upon by the crowd since they were in Hamlet territory after all.