Full-Scale Production of Games and Rides Takes Place April 21

The intensive and, sometimes, obsessive involvement Montecito parents have in their children’s school lives has been well catalogued. The surprising part is how they seem to top each other’s effort from year to year.

Last fall, a band of 40 Montecito Union School parents each paid $250 for a daylong trip to Babcock Vineyards, in the Santa Rita Hills. They boarded a luxury bus, replete with espresso machine and Debby’s Delights croissants, and spent the afternoon helping winemaker Bryan Babcock, a Montecito Union parent, pick and stomp grapes for the harvest, all for the benefit of the school.

“How many places can you have people pay two hundred-fifty dollars to do manual labor?” quipped Marni Rozet, a school parent who helped organize the event.

The harvest trip is just one example of the extensive (and imaginative) lengths Montecito Union parents go to generate money for their school – what amounts to approximately $150,000 each year. It’s not just bake sales and jog-a-thons anymore.

Last February, the school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) put on “That’s Amore,” a lively, Italian-themed benefit that brought in an excess of $80,000 to fund PTA programs, which include the sixth grade class’s weeklong outdoor school trip and a mime residency that teaches students the intricacies of silent communication.

But it appears even the fundraising aspirations of parents have their limits. This year, the PTA has put its winter nighttime gala on hold.

“The parent body was so generous last year that we really kind of felt like we didn’t want to keep tapping into everybody,” said Rozet, who was co-chair for “That’s Amore.”

What this means is that Montecito Union’s fundraising pressures will rest on the mighty shoulders of the school’s annual Carnival, its most iconic and anticipated event. The full-scale extravaganza returns in full force on April 21, as a working committee of 25 parents has organized an elaborate production of rides, games and entertainment.

For starters, there will be the rock climbing wall, face painting, a giant slide, 50-foot obstacle course, game prize booth, putt putt golf, cake walk, Beanie Babies and class art projects.

The entertainment centerpiece will be MUS Idol, a spin-off of “American Idol” in which contestants – in this instance, kids – dress themselves in silly clothing and perform pop songs to the amusement of parents and fellow students. Montecito Union parent Eric David Greenspan, CEO of the neighborhood tech support company, Make it Work, lends his technological assets – megaspeakers, fog machines, large plasma screens – to make the production happen.

As part of the sing-off, the school has again invited Culture Shock, a hip hop dance troupe that comes all the way from Las Vegas to perform and teach kids dance moves.

The daylong revelry promises to keep parents busy as well. Class projects will be on display and for sale at the marketplace. Past items have included paintings put together by students, customized surfboards and picnic tables. This “Wish List” has enabled interested supporters to pledge money to specific PTA activities, such as the ever-popular “Books for Bedtime,” the gardening program and the scholarship program.

Woody’s Barbeque will again be catering for the afternoon, serving up hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, steak sandwiches and other grilled items. Treats will also be offered at the bake sale while Coast Village Road gelato parlor Here’s the Scoop holds it own booth.

The carnival has traditionally been the fundraising bedrock of the PTA, generating about $100,000 each year. A lot of that comes from parents and local businesses, but a good chunk is provided by Montecito Union students, who every year go door to door selling raffle tickets.

The money raised for the PTA funds anything from the annual fifth grade history trip to Washington D.C. to programs such as Art-at-Lunch.

The Montecito Union Carnival takes place on Saturday, April 21, from 10 am to 3 pm, on the school terrace, 385 San Ysidro Road. For more info call Marni Rozet at 252-7988.

Montecito Union Carnival

When: April 21, 10 am to 3 pm

Where: Montecito Union terrace, 385 San Ysidro Road

Info: Marni Rozet, 252-7988

What the PTA Provides

• Two weeks of African drumming and dance direct from Ghana

• Shakespearean actors perform play to demonstrate art of poetry and prose

• Funding for annual fifth grade trip to Washington D.C.

• Chorus trip to Disneyland

• Sixth grade class’s Outward Bound experience

• New Macintosh computers in every classroom and two new computer labs