MILTON — Students at Rhodes Elementary were able to unwind for state testing with a fun-filled day of music and tea thanks to the school's end of the year Renaissance Art Festival held on May 17. 

Toni New, art teacher for the school, is credited with planning and coordinating the event.

"This day is sort of a release for them," New said.

This year's event centered around the culture of the English Renaissance period. New said they had prepared a special "proper English tea" and provided students with a magician, sword fighting event, dance and music show as well as other activities. She said meals were prepared representing the culture, and halls and rooms received renaissance decor. As a special treat, New said the school made 860 tea cups for students.

New said she has been holding an all-art event at the school for over 30 years, bringing what she calls a taste of a different culture each time.

"When I was hired in Santa Rosa I looked at the social studies curriculum, and they had taken all the books away and given them themes," New said. "So the teachers had to come to me to get resources."

New said that is what inspired her to start the festivals. To help prepare, she said she gets help from community volunteers from the community during the day.

"Almost everyone of these people come without being paid," New said. "It's absolutely wonderful. Some of these people have been helping me for 30 years."

The events are becoming even more special to her she said because she is getting near the end of her career. She said in five years she will retire and her hope is the next art teacher will continue her legacy.

"It's not bittersweet for me," she said. "At some point I feel you have to pass the torch on."