PBP, Pittman Center kids have fun field trip to downtown Gatlinburg

Dec. 08, 2012 @ 10:12 PM

Kindergarten and first-grade students from Pi Beta Phi and Pittman Center Elementary schools took a field trip this week to two Gatlinburg entertainment staples.

The trip, sponsored by the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, began at Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre with an hour-long version of "Yuletide Madness" and culminated in a visit to Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, featuring interaction with blow-up and costumed mascots, Santa Claus and a live penguin.

"My thinking was it's Christmas time and we should do something for the kids that's different," said George Hawkins, community and media relations director of the bureau.

Hawkins, who organized the field trip, said this is the fourth year GCVB has sponsored the trip, but the first year Pittman Center students participated.

The inaugural year of the trip focused mainly on the theater, "and each year it's gotten more professional," Hawkins said. The trip to the theater has some cultural value, too.

"This year they took one of their adult plays and redid it to be kid-friendly. This is the first time these kids have been subjected to real theater," Hawkins said. "It's a good cultural experience for them. And when the parents come with them, they forget all their troubles and worries and just have a good time at the theater."

Some of the parents went home after the play, when the students were greeted by several blow-up and costumed mascots, including a large blow-up candy cane and gingerbread man, as well as a costumed shrimp, shark and bear. The mascots led the students the short distance to the aquarium.

At the aquarium, the students were met by Santa Pat of Santa's Claus-et.

Finally the students gathered in the aquarium near Stingray Bay. There, they observed a friendly African penguin named Tails, which waddled throughout the room as an aquarium employee answered the students' penguin-related questions.

"This is probably the first time they've been with a real penguin," Hawkins said. "It's something they will remember all their lives.

"And it's educational."

n rhargett@themountainpress.com