|By Courtney Llewellyn|
Reminder Assistant Editor
EAST LONGMEADOW For the first time in history, the local junior cheerleader exhibition will be hosted by the town of East Longmeadow. Thirteen different towns' teams will converge on East Longmeadow High School on Oct. 27 to showcase their skills and routines.
Pee-wee (third and fourth grades), junior (fifth and sixth grades) and senior (seventh and eighth grades) squads will also compete for the coveted Spirit Stick, which will be awarded to the group with the most spirit.
Walter Kenney, an organizer of the event as well as a coach for East Longmeadow's pee-wee and senior squads, knows that it takes spirit to bring an event like this together. A member of a 10 person panel, Kenney began organizing the exhibition in January.
"I coach and I have a daughter who's on the junior squad," Kenney said. "We're all full of cheer."
Local coaches Patty Wholley, Deb Forest, Crystal Gonyea, Lisa Simon, Gina Szynkaruk, Shelley Montana and Freda Degray are also working hard with their squads.
Running from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., the event will include a performance from the East Longmeadow High School cheerleading squad. Snacks will be available for both cheerleaders and spectators, as will a "spirit shop," selling sweatshirts, T-shirts and other regalia.
The young ladies of the East Longmeadow squads will also be selling necklaces and bracelets they made themselves at Colorful Creations Bead Company.
"We try to help community organizations as much as we can," Pat Pawlowicz, co-owner of Colorful Creations, said. "The girls came in and we had boxes and boxes of beads available for them. There were also pewter cheerleader charms, like little cheerleaders and megaphones to use."
The money raised from the sales of the beaded jewelry will go toward the town's cheerleading program.
In addition to the junior and high school cheerleaders, the Western Massachusetts Semi-Professional Lady Warriors cheer and dance team has been a regular component of the exhibition over the past several years. Amy Ruelle, coach of the Lady Warriors, said this is not only a chance for spectators to be entertained, it's an opportunity to show the younger girls what cheerleaders can do.
"We come to these events to try to persuade the younger girls to continue with cheerleading through high school and into college," Ruelle said. "A lot of schools offer scholarships for cheerleading, including UMass Amherst."
Because some of the 11 members of the Lady Warriors are college students, Ruelle is still not sure as of press time whether or not the squad will be performing at the exhibition. "I do hope at least eight of the girls can come so we can perform some exciting stunting routines," she stated.
With all the cheer squads gathering for the exhibition, the excitement in East Longmeadow is growing. "This is like the Superbowl of cheerleading," Carolyn Porter, Director of the Recreation Department, said.
The Recreation Department is one of the sponsors of the exhibition and Porter said that donations are still being accepted. To help out, call the department at 525-5437.
After the long months of planning, Kenney is still excited to see the event take place.
"I do it all for the kids," he said. "I love it."
Admission to the exhibition is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students. Children six and younger are free. The event will take place in the East Longmeadow High School gymnasium.