Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 26
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
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Princeton Preschoolers Sample Balloon Festival, Courtesy of PNC Bank

Linda Arntzenius

Preschoolers from Princeton Nursery School on Leigh Avenue were treated to a sample of the annual New Jersey Balloon Festival, Tuesday at Farm View Fields on the Great Road.

Sponsored by PNC Bank's "Grow Up Great" school readiness program in support of the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the field trip took the preschoolers to view a 75-foot hot air balloon that is one of some 125 scheduled to take part in the festival on July 27-29 at Solberg Airport in Readington, New Jersey.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the festival, billed as the "largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America." Some 175,000 people are expected to attend this year.

By 7:35 a.m., the school's Executive Director Deirdre McCarthy was in charge. "Our parents are rarely on time, so as an incentive we said that the bus was leaving at 8 a.m. sharp and if the kids weren't here on time they'd find the school empty and have to wait until 11 a.m."

PNC Bank representatives Joseph Whall and Patricia Kane were on hand to help out as the kids lined up for the bus that would take them on the trip.

Ms. Kane is a familiar presence in the school, where bank volunteers have shown up to help out at orientation sessions, and field trips such as this one; to plant flowers in the school garden; and to read to the kids as part of the bank's commitment to education.

The school's teaching staff ushered kids into their seats for the journey and the bus left at 8:05 a.m. with some three dozen preschoolers all loaded in and buckled up, all wearing name-tags.

When the preschoolers arrived at the park, the 75-foot hot air balloon was already inflated and ready for them to explore. The balloon was inflated on its side, staked to the ground, and available to small hands. After an age-appropriate science lesson from festival producer Howard Freeman about hot air, parachutes and propane gas, the children filed inside.

Founded in 1929, the Princeton Nursery School provides for children between the ages of two and a half and five years.

The school is housed in a building on Leigh Avenue that is dedicated to Evangeline Miller, long-term director from 1936 to 1973. The entryway features a plaque in her honor, in recognition of her "enthusiasm, humor, compassion, and total devotion" to the school. "She loved every child as if each one were her own," it reads. A second plaque remembers dedicated nurse/teacher Mary Benning Moss. Affectionately known as "Mommy" Moss, she was a retired nurse and the first African American to graduate from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore, Md., the plaque records.

The school has two classes arranged by age for the three year-olds and four year-olds. Each class has 22 students, and each has a teacher and two teaching aides.

Ms. McCarthy welcomed the bank's support over the years. "PNC Bank has been a valuable community partner and resource for the school for years, organizing holiday toy drives and making improvements to our facility," she said.

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