Students show they don’t ‘horse around’ with drugs

GOWANDA – It’s not that often you see a person wearing giant Candy Buttons or a child wearing a cardboard washing machine complete with laundry detergent walking down Aldrich Street, but sights such as these were common during the Gowanda Elementary School’s “Don’t ‘Horse Around’ with Drugs” Parade Thursday afternoon.

The school’s 435 students dressed up as princesses, superheroes and vampires (among many other costumes) for the Halloween-themed parade to show they are drug-free. The parade was the culmination of Red Ribbon Week, the national drug prevention awareness campaign that ran from Oct. 23 to 31 in Gowanda.

The parade was escorted by the Erie County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Division (hence the “horsing around”) and included the Buffalo Bills’ mascot, Billy Buffalo, and Buffalo Jills Myesha and Alyssa. Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard served as the parade’s grand marshal.

“This was just a nice end for our Red Ribbon Week,” Elementary School Principal Janice Stokes said, citing various other events during the week, including a karate demonstration (“Give Drugs the Chop”) on Oct. 23, a fireman’s demonstration (“Hose out Drugs”) on Oct. 24 and Native American dancing (“Stomp out Drugs”) last Monday.

This is Stokes’ last year as principal after more than 23 years of service to the school.

“I’ve been doing this for 13 years and this was the first time we incorporated Halloween and costumes into our Red Ribbon Week,” Gowanda Police and School Resource Officer Jen Alessi said. “This week and this parade was a way to teach parents and children the importance and the message of being drug-free.”

Faith Stewart, a Gowanda teacher for the Johnson O’Malloy Program for Native American students, secured Billy Buffalo and the Jills for the parade through a reward drawing for Buffalo Bills season ticket holders.

“When my name was pulled, I decided to choose the reward of having Billy and the Jills come to my workplace,” Stewart said. “I figured it would be a fun visit for the kids if they got to see them during Red Ribbon Week, so we asked them to come for the parade.”

“That was just an added bonus and treat for the kids to have them come here,” Stokes said.

Students and teachers alike dressed up and marched during the parade, which went from the school to the Gowanda Fire Department, then back to the school. Proud parents lined up along Aldrich Street to take pictures of their children.

Afterward, everyone went back to their classrooms to get their pictures taken with Billy Buffalo and the Jills.

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