A few days ago, Tamara Tateosian, executive director of the Callaway County Chamber, wondered if the chamber's new teacher appreciation breakfast event would be attended at all.
But on Monday, the parking lot at 54 Country spilled over with cars until they flooded down the long driveway into a nearby clinic's parking lot.
Hundreds showed up.
"It's fabulous," she said. "I'm in awe of the attendance today."
Local college officials announced a $500 teacher grant, and Tim Riley, chief curator and director of the National Churchill Museum, also fired up the crowd with a proposal to help children think about and understand the meaning of "special relationship."
"The National Churchill Museum is inviting every K-12 student in Callaway County to participate in the 'Special Relationship Project,'" Riley said. "We're challenging them to think about and envision what 'special relationship' means to them, and paint that on a 6-by-6-inch canvas."
He said that invitation goes to every one of the county's 5,163 students.
"Then, on March 5, 2019 — the anniversary of the Iron Curtain speech — they will be displayed at the National Churchill Museum," Riley added.
Riley talked about Sir Winston Churchill's 1946 speech made in Fulton, coined the Iron Curtain speech but actually named the Sinews of Peace.
"What are sinews? Sinews are things that bind us together," he added.
A term first used by Churchill during his Fulton visit was "special relationship." That term is still used today, particularly in describing the close-knit ties between Great Britain and the United States.
He also said the project could expand from the Churchill museum display.
"It's already snowballing into something that's larger than us," he told the Fulton Sun. "It's a great way to celebrate our legacy."
Carolyn Perry, of Westminster College, and Mike Westerfield, of William Woods University, said the colleges have come together to offer a $500 grant to provide support to a new teacher to create innovation in the classroom with end goals including development of personal motivation and skills encouraging lifelong learning. Details will be forthcoming.
The keynote speaker was Gene Wilholt, executive director of the National Center for Innovation in Education. Once the Kentucky Commissioner of Education and director of the Arkansas Department of Education and other national roles, he got his start as a teacher.
"Being a teacher was the hardest job I ever had," Wilholt said while describing his duties then. "But there are very few persons in society that get to witness that moment when the light goes on (for a student), and they see the world in a different way. Those moments are treasures."
Superintendents of local school districts attended along with some of their staff members, and various other dignitaries also came. Fulton Mayor LeRoy Benton and Callaway County Presiding County Commissioner Gary Jungermann read proclamations, and U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R) also stirred the crowd.
"My mother was a teacher for many years, and I was a student for many years, and I know they always put the (trouble) students in the front row," he said, pointing at each school superintendent and laughing. "You all know what you do. You know how important you are in a child's life. You have a really, really big job."