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Last Viking Fest for B.R.A.T.S.
POULSBO — It’s not just the entertainment from the B.R.A.T.S. that North Kitsap Senior Center President Norman Bates will remember about the program’s annual visit.
Along with performing their circus-style acts, the Breidablik Elementary students would visit with the seniors afterward, Bates said.
“We have a lot of interaction between the kids and seniors after [the students’] performance,” Bates said. The seniors “love watching and interacting with the kids,” he said.
And typically after performing, the B.R.A.T.S. and seniors would eat ice cream.
The B.R.A.T.S. performances, however, are coming to an end. The Breidablik students will perform in the Viking Fest Parade, and then once at Breidablik and once at Vinland Elementary May 23. The school performances will be the program’s last.
Breidablik’s Rising Athletically Talented Students (B.R.A.T.S.) was formed in 1991. Originally performing within the North Kitsap School District, the program expanded to community performances when Bob Webb took over about 13 years ago.
Since the program was created more than 20 years ago, students have juggled, unicycled, jump-roped, and ball-walked their way around the area.
The B.R.A.T.S. are known to push themselves and encourage each other, Webb said. They help one another, and when they see their peers perform a feat, they try it. Webb thinks of the program as giving students the “confidence to conquer the seemingly impossible.”
“They do things most adults can’t do, and they do it extremely well,” Webb said. “It’s kind of awe-inspiring.”
The program was a kind of outreach between Breidablik, the school district and the rest of the community, Webb said.
The B.R.A.T.S. performed at the senior center for 13 years. The final performance at the center was May 8.
While discussing the final weeks of the B.R.A.T.S., Bates said Webb “was almost in tears” thinking that the program would not be returning.
“He really loves those kids,” Bates said of Webb as the B.R.A.T.S. coach.
Though the skills the B.R.A.T.S. use are also learned during physical education, the program takes it to another level. Students practice twice per week before school. The mastery of the talents adds to the student’s self-esteem and overall physical and mental well-being, according to information emailed by Webb.
B.R.A.T.S. have performed at the Kitsap Mall, Central Market, the senior center, Eagle Harbor Books and Poulsbo McDonald’s during a McTakeover, among other venues.
The students performed for the first and last time at Emeritus at Montclair Park in Poulsbo May 9. The performance gave fourth graders, who would not have the chance to perform next year, a chance to show off their talents; they also sang “Happy Birthday” to a resident turning 100.
The B.R.A.T.S. did not always perform outside of the school district; with the exception of the Viking Fest Parade, which the program has participated in since 1991. Breidablik is the only elementary school that participates in the parade, Viking Fest President Ron Krell said.
“They are an outstanding performance,” Krell said. “Their parents and they themselves should be proud.”
Breidablik also sends musical group Ku-Umba to play at the Kvelstad Pavilion. The group performs Marimba. This year, the group is scheduled to play Friday, 6:15-6:45 p.m.
The Vikings Fest Parade is scheduled for Saturday, 2-4 p.m.
Among the feats performed during the parade, Krell said seeing B.R.A.T.S. maintain balance — going downhill — while walking on large balls is impressive. Some of the B.R.A.T.S., he said, ride a unicycle and juggle at the same time.
“Those are two things I can’t do,” Krell said of riding a unicycle and juggling.
The B.R.A.T.S. program will end with the closure of Breidablik Elementary. The North Kitsap School Board voted unanimously to close the school, Feb. 28.
Webb hopes some kind of variation to B.R.A.T.S. will form in the school district; maybe a unicycle club, he said. However, it’s difficult to beat the acronym.