Miles of smiles at RT Star’s Back to School Party

Pat Blackburn, Cynthia Falardeau, Cathy Filusch [Photo: Denise Ritchie]

Local talent was on display at the fourth annual RT Star’s Back to School Party recently hosted by Riverside Theatre in partnership with the nonprofit Education Foundation of Indian River County. Interspersed throughout the free event, created to help families and children begin the new school year with confidence, attendees were entertained by students enrolled in Riverside Theatre for Kids programs.

Costumed characters from popular Riverside for Kids shows roamed the crowd – eliciting huge grins and hugs from adoring children – and held story-time readings in the Agnes Wahlstrom Youth Playhouse, while others sang on the outside stage.

“We had more student performers this year because we had camps that were specifically for this,” said Kevin Quillinan, director of theatre education. “We have 55 kids performing today which is the most we’ve ever had.”

Later in the afternoon, students enrolled in the Riverside Dance Festival performed on the Stark Stage with members of the Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami.

As parents gathered information about educational opportunities offered by Riverside Theatre, the Education Foundation, the School District of Indian River County and local nonprofit organizations, little ones were kept busy with a range of hands-on activities. There were even rides in an air-conditioned school bus driven by Rick Brown, a special needs bus driver.

“We always had the bus, but then last year we started taking them on rides and it was a hit,” said Jon Moses, Riverside’s managing director and COO. “We also finally got Moonshot out; we had been talking to them for years but in the past they had conflicting events. So that’s a happy addition.”

He was referencing the Learning Alliance and its Moonshot Moment initiative, where staff members were encouraging children to add their favorite words to an ever-growing Moonshot Word Wall, a roving arts literacy installation.

Local educators Michael and Beth Hofer – he’s an algebra teacher at Sebastian River High School and she’s the Oslo Middle School principal – were on hand to present costumed readings of their book, “Major Manners Presents Nite-Nite Soldier.”

“It’s like performance art in a read-aloud,” explained Beth Hofer of the interactive reading.

“This is a community event. It’s raising awareness as well as getting children ready for the school year in a positive, emotionally good setting,” said Cathy Filusch, board president of the Education Foundation, which funds numerous public, private and home-school programs and services for pre-K through 12th grade.

For more information visit or

Photos by: Denise Ritchie
Click HERE to see more or buy photos

Leave a Comment