Greenwood Elementary event more than dinner – it's tradition

It’s still the spaghetti dinner.

Greenwood Elementary School looks different than it did in 1964, when the thing started. It’s bigger. There’s a library now. The event itself draws a larger crowd. They added a rock wall something like 10 years ago.

But, even 50 years since it started, it’s still the spaghetti dinner.

“What’s nice about it is that it kind of stays the same,” Thomas Wollpert said. “It is what it is, every year. No matter who’s running it or who participates in it, the spaghetti dinner is the spaghetti dinner.”

Wollpert should know. He attended them as an infant, then as a preschooler, then as a student of the school.

Later, in adulthood, he went as a teacher. This year, he took a new view of the night, as the school’s principal.

That fact, he says, is exciting – but the spaghetti dinner is always exciting. The spaghetti dinner is the spaghetti dinner.

“It’s home,” Wollpert said of the school in Woodstock. “This is home for me.”

The spaghetti dinner was not the spaghetti dinner in 1961. That was Bill Schuette’s first year as principal of the little country school on Greenwood Road.

He and his staff put together a pancake supper.

“The reception was great,” Schuette said.

Too great. The event grew and soon, Wollpert said, staffers couldn’t put pancakes on plates quickly enough.

They switched to spaghetti in 1964, a dish easier to prep in bulk.

For years, Schuette, with help, would have to pick up the sauce from a restaurant in Richmond. They’d fill a clean garbage can. One year, it toppled over in the car on the way back to the event. Luckily, they got to it before all the sauce had sloshed out, avoiding the purchase of a full replacement batch.

“But we did have to replace some of it,” Schuette said.

Schuette and his wife will be at the dinner again this year, joining several other past Greenwood faces to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of a tradition that has helped fund the school but, just as important, has become part of it.

“This year, we sent out special invitations to all the past teachers,” said Sally Caldwell, Greenwood PTO treasurer. “We got a lot of people who were involved at one point in the Greenwood community but have moved on to come back.”

The 50th Annual Greenwood Spaghetti Dinner featured a component it always has: spaghetti. And a component that has similarly become a staple: a cakewalk – a musical chairs-like game where players walk from one numbered square to the next until the music stops. The person administering the game draws and calls a number, and whoever is standing on it wins the prize – sometimes, but not always, a cake.

The rock wall and a silent auction, bounce house, obstacle course, balloon artists, cotton candy and photo booth were also in the mix. Other games were spread throughout the school, which approximately doubled in size with an addition in 1996 that added classrooms.

“There are spaghetti dinners all over the place,” Schuette said. “But this one is really special.”

Special, but simple. In 1964, they put spaghetti on your plate. In 2014, they put spaghetti on your plate.

“Not a whole lot different, really – the staff has changed, the cooks have changed,” said Schuette, laughter in his voice. “But the spaghetti is still the same.”

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