There was a sea of children in construction paper hats: blue bonnets, black hats with yellow buckles and multicolored native headdresses. It was the traditional garb of an American staple: the elementary school Thanksgiving pageant.


"We want to welcome you to our first-ever feast," Cypress Academy of the Arts Principal Scott Sheffield said, standing before a packed cafeteria of parents, grandparents and children Friday afternoon. "This is huge!"


Tables along the back wall were lined with pumpkin pie, turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and more.


But first, before the feast, came the celebration. Two ranks of second graders, standing dressed in construction paper headdresses and vests, read off a Thanksgiving alphabet as teachers flipped the pages of enormous notebooks.


"Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays," dozens of voices read in unison. "A is for 'American.' Some of the earliest Americans were the pilgrims."


B was for "Big Ship," C was for "Cramped," D for "Danger" and so on through the alphabet.


"G is for grateful," the children read. "Everyone was grateful to find a place to live the way they wanted to."


This is Cypress' first year housing first and second graders; prior to this year, the school was a sixth grade only school. This year, it reopened as a kindergarten through sixth grade "school of choice," with a planned extra emphasis on arts education.


Following the alphabet, it was the first graders' turn, and they stood up from their seats and turned to face the rest of the audience, singing a modified "Darling Clementine" with turkey-themed lyrics.


"And he's feathered and he's fine/and he wobbles and he gobbles," they sang, "And he's absolutely mine."


Sheffield said he hoped the pageant and accompanying feast would become an annual tradition.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.