The last day of the 2021 school year on Friday meant one thing for the students of Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes: Ninja warrior.

Students were surprised to find a ninja-warrior-style obstacle course waiting for them in the parking lot of Roosevelt Elementary to help them kickoff their summers in style on May 28, 2021, the last day of school.

"It was a complete surprise to our kids," said Karilee Traurig, associate principal at Roosevelt Elementary. "We even had our parents saying, 'this is a secret,' and that was hard to do and when (the students) came out and saw it, they had eyes as wide as saucers … and that makes this year end perfect."

Esme Thomas, right, 4th grader at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes, and Lola Dodd, 4th grader, swing on rings during an attempt on a Ninja-Warrior-style obstacle course in the school's parking lot on Friday, May 28. The event was organized to celebrate the last day of the 2021 school year. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)
Esme Thomas, right, 4th grader at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes, and Lola Dodd, 4th grader, swing on rings during an attempt on a Ninja-Warrior-style obstacle course in the school's parking lot on Friday, May 28. The event was organized to celebrate the last day of the 2021 school year. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)

Many of the students have been learning through screens for more than a year and the event was a nice way to give them a more normal end to a unique school year, she said.

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"This will be one of those things that (the students will) say, 'in my, whatever grade, I got to spend my last day with the ninja gym, and it was fantastic,'" said Traurig. "Our staff has also been pretty amazing this year. They have rolled with all the punches, they have stepped up and said, 'what can we do?,' … and we're thankful for their efforts in all of those ways."

Even students who continued distance learning throughout the year were welcomed to attend the event, she said, and interact with their peers during the school's summer kickoff.

"Most (students) are looking forward to summer, I think some struggle because they like their routine and the structure of just the school day," said Trisha Mariotti, principal at Roosevelt Elementary. "But, I think this year we are especially excited and looking forward to the kiddos, and teachers, who are looking for a break."

She also said each grade level, kindergarten through 5th grade, received about 50 minutes of play time on the course before the next grade level would head out for their turn running the obstacles.

Max Okeson, 5th grader at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes, races up the warped wall as part of a Ninja-Warrior-style obstacle course in the school's parking lot on Friday, May 28. The event was organized to celebrate the last day of the 2021 school year. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)
Max Okeson, 5th grader at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes, races up the warped wall as part of a Ninja-Warrior-style obstacle course in the school's parking lot on Friday, May 28. The event was organized to celebrate the last day of the 2021 school year. (Michael Achterling / Tribune)

"We try to do something fun at the end of every year for kiddos," said Mariotti. "(The ninja warrior course) has actually been two years in the making because we were supposed to have it last year and with COVID, we couldn't."

The obstacle course was setup, and run, by Ninja Anywhere, based in Ramsay, Minn. One event staffer said the private events, like the event at Roosevelt Elementary, are easier to operate at than other events because the school had the students complete participation waivers ahead of time, something that usually takes up a majority of the staff's time at their public events.

"The Ninja Anywhere group has done a fantastic job facilitating for our kids," said Traurig. "Safety, which is most important to us, but just how they taught them to go through the stations, and here's what our rules are, and the number one rule is to have fun."