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Hopkins County Dairy Festival one week away

It’s time to “moo it, moo it” because the Hopkins County Dairy Festival is celebrating their 56th anniversary in a utterly awesome way. A week of sensational festivities will be held June 12-20. Here is a breakdown of all the events. 

At noon, June 12, head down to the Celebration Plaza for the annual opening ceremonies and ribbon cutting. 

“After the ceremonies the first thing no one should miss is the hot air balloon rally and glow,” said Dairy Festival Committee member Lynda Hager. 

The hot air balloons will launch from 6 until 9 p.m. Friday June 12 at Shannon Oaks Church at 1113  East Shannon Road, Sulphur Springs.

To add to the excitement, the 5K Milk Run will begin at 7 p.m. that evening as 35 hot air balloons drift over head to offer a view like no other. The 5K race was created to bring community awareness of dairy farmers in Hopkins County. 

“The race will have race chip timing and also begin at Shannon Oaks Church,” said Hager. 

On Saturday, the party continues as hot air balloons will continue flying from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., followed by the Dairy Festival Parade at 10 a.m.

More than a hundred floats will leave Buford Park and travel down Connally Street to Celebration Square, then turn down Gilmer Street to Lee Street before returning to the park. Unlike previous year, the parade will be an even mix different kinds of floats instead of grouping alike themes together. 

“We had a huge parade last year with 117 entrees last year. We will have past Dairy Festival Queens from five, 10, 25, and 50 years ago,” said Hagar. “Anyone can enter the parade. All they need to do is show up early on the day of the parade in Buford Park.”

Organizations or parties interested in entering the parade can contact David Watson at 903-439-5020. 

At the same time as the parade, the Junior Dairy Show will begin at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center which is followed by the candidates, parents and balloon pilots at 3 p.m.

On Saturday June 20 at 4 p.m., the Texas Championship Ice Cream Freeze-Off will begin on the Civic Center grounds, and to round out the evening the hot air balloons will take their final voyages from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. 

The festival will pick up Wednesday with a carnival on the Civic Center grounds.

“The carnival is going to be so much fun this year with every ride you can imagine,” said Dairy Festival committee member Lonnie Fox. “It will be the same group as last year and tickets will be available at Super Handy in Sulphur Springs for a discounted rate. The tickets will be available to purchase in the store by Friday, June 12.”

Finishing off a week of celebrating the benefits of the dairy industry, Texas AgriLife Extension Office will be holding a Dairy Foods Contest at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 20, in their office. The festival will then wrap up with the Queen Coronation Pageant at 7p.m. Seven girls will be showing off their talents, evening dresses and speaking abilities during the evening.

“The pageant is my favorite part of the festival,” said Hager. “The pageant is something everyone has to come out to see this year.”

‘Ghetto Awards’ family finds closure through forgiveness

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Sulphur Springs became a media firestorm this week after a Sulphur Springs Middle School mother Jerrika Dabbs found out an awards certificate was given to her son at school called the “Ghetto Awards.” On the award, her son was labeled the “huh?” child. Angered at why her son was ostracized, Dabbs contacted the school district for answers. The result was a heated discussion which led to tears, hugs, apologies, forgiveness and a better understanding of what really happened in class.

On Thursday afternoon, a meeting was called with Dabbs' family, her pastor, Sulphur Springs Middle School Principal Jena Williams, Assistant Principal James Cartwright and the two teachers who held the “Ghetto Awards” SSMS teachers Stephanie Garner and Tim Couch. On  the agenda was trying to find out if racism and discrimination were used in the classroom. 

“Initially, the teachers took a beating during the meeting but they were open, responsive and asked for forgiveness,” said Morning Chapel Baptist Church Pastor Harold Nash. “It appeared to me through the teachers’ expressions and behavior during the meeting that they were broken.”

Nash was called to be a counselor by the family and approved by SSISD Superintendent Michael Lamb to help mediate between the parties. He is also the pastor of the Dabbs family.

“Some people may never understand this, but I witnessed two teachers who really care about their kids and had acceptable decor, even in a very heated situation,” he said.

Nash explained the main focus of the meeting was to address the effect on the children and the future of the teachers.

“We spent a lot of time on the meaning of the certificate. I think the family found the teachers to be sincere and they (the teachers) did not understand the full significance of the word ‘ghetto,’” said Nash. “They were thinking in a positive nature to help these kids.” 

Nash continued to say that SSMS teachers Couch and Garner had been teaching the students about the history of the Holocaust and the Jewish ghetto prior to the "Ghetto Awards" ceremony. The Jewish ghettos were a lower class section of town that eventually became a place of torture during World War II. After the war, the Jewish people were left with nothing, but rose from poverty to achieve greatness.  

“For the Jews, the ghetto was where the Jews lived. The teachers stressed that if the Jews could overcome such incredible oppression, students can do anything if they wanted to,” Nash explained. “It was supposed to be a positive message.”

Nash said that during the meeting he tried to be neutral, but initially thought the Jewish Holocaust argument was an unsatisfactory answer.

“I went home that night, thought and prayed about what they said. I even looked through a dictionary I had and it said, 'a place where the Jews lived in England.' I then realized that the teacher was correct in the lessons he was teaching the kids. The teachers wanted the children to be victorious,” he said.

Racism was also addressed in the discussion. Nash said that Couch addressed the group directly about racism and after that, the argument came to a close.

“We found out Couch looks Caucasian but he is partially Native American,” the pastor said. “He told us he once met a young African American boy who had nowhere to go and he took him into his home. After that point, the racist remarks were completely taken out of the conversation.”

Another large point of contention was why the student was given the “huh?” award and why all  the students were given out "Ghetto Awards" with characteristics that were assigned by the teachers. According to Nash, the teachers said the event was a humorous end of the year awards in which everyone got something funny and was supposed to end the year in a uplifting way.

“As far as I can tell, no one was offended in the classroom,” said Nash. “The main thing is, at the beginning of the meeting, there were parents with hurt feelings that were looking for these teachers to be terminated or reprimanded.”

According to Nash, both teachers apologized to the families for their short-sightedness and cultural insensitivity. They asked to be forgiven for having the awards ceremony. Garner specifically said that she would resign if the parents wanted her to.

“After two and a half hours, the meeting came to a resolution. There was pain on both sides but the meeting ended in forgiveness. We had a prayer circle and, after the prayer, the family and teachers hugged each other,” said Nash. “There is no doubt that his certificate was a problem that needed to be dealt with, but it ended positively. When everything was said and done, the family told the teachers they did not want them to resign or be terminated, but learn that ghetto is not positive reinforcement or a term of endearment for any child, regardless of race.”

Nash continued to say he was proud to be a pastor of the family and in Sulphur Springs after witnessing such openness from both parties.

“These teachers are going to have to live with this the rest of their lives. I believe the lesson has been learned and there is no need to add additional fire to the flame,” said Nash. “Perhaps this situation will help other school systems with understanding different cultures and the derogatory meanings associated with the  word ghetto.”

  Editor’s Note: Both SSMS teachers declined to talk to News-Telegram staff.  

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