Third-graders show their heritage at Fort Vancouver

By Susan Parrish, Columbian Education Reporter

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York Elementary School third-graders, from left, Caden McCray, Sterling Shenault and Brennan Owens, all 9, show their German and Mexican heritage.

Friday morning, an estimated 1,500 third-grade students — dressed in colorful costumes and waving flags and dioramas — descended upon the grounds of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site for the 10th annual Children’s Cultural Parade.

Students from Vancouver and Evergreen public schools participated in the event, which celebrates the cultural diversity of Vancouver. The parade culminates a classroom unit where the students learned about cultures from around the world and explored their own cultural heritage and those of their classmates.

Leading the parade were Larry Smith, Vancouver mayor pro tem; Tracy Fortmann, superintendent of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site; and school superintendents and staff.

Countries from around the globe were represented. Some students wore elaborate costumes honor

ing their family’s cultural heritage. Others had made oversized paper dolls and dressed them in heritage costumes. Some wore hats decorated with elaborate dioramas. Still others carried national flags.

After the students marched through the historic site, they headed for the reconstructed fort.

Mary Boyd and her two younger sons, Jacob, 4, and Levi, 2, were slowly walking through the historic site’s garden to make their way inside the fort and catch up with her oldest son, Elijah, who was marching in the parade with his classmates from Burton Elementary School.

Students entering the fort gate were welcomed by National Park Service volunteers who are part of the site’s Dame School. Sydney Jenkins, 10, a home-schooled student, and Marceline Wilson, 9, who attends Franklin Elementary, were dressed in 1840s period costumes and stood at the fort gate waving.

Once all the students, their teachers, parent volunteers and families had entered the reconstructed Hudson’s Bay Co. stockade, they stood on the lawn and were greeted by officials from the national park, the city of Vancouver and the school districts.

Fortmann stood on the porch of the Chief Factor’s House and welcomed the sea of students that stood before her.

“Thank you for coming here today to your national park to help keep history alive by honoring our community’s diverse heritage at this cultural parade,” Fortmann said.