By Jessica Lyons
Presented by the Winkler Organization, the annual Back 2 School Festival will return this weekend for a fourth year to help kids of all ages in Watauga County pick up needed school supplies and everything they need to succeed this year.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13 at Watauga High School, the event will be completely free of cost for families who attend. Festivities will take place in the schools gyms and lunchroom, and attendees with children with special needs may attend as early as 9 a.m. to avoid the crowd.
The festival is designed to help the nearly 1,500 students who receive free or reduced lunches and the 31 percent of families who live below the federal poverty in Watauga, one of the most impoverished counties in the state of North Carolina.
“Our mission is to make sure that every child starts off school feeling confident and prepared,” said Todd Carter, development director at the Hospitality House and Back 2 School communications coordinator. “The budget for school supplies for one child not including haircuts and new shoes is $117 per child, and we’re trying to ease that burden for families.”
The free will provide kids a new back pack, school supplies, new shoes and free haircuts from local professionals to help them start the school year right. There will be prom and formal dresses available for high schoolers this year, as well.
The buses accepting “pack the bus” supply donations will be parked in front of the Yadkin Bank in Boone until Friday. There is still currently a high demand for more composition notebooks, highlighters, Elmer’s glue sticks and safety scissors that are needed before the event Saturday.
Last year, close to 850 students attended to receive free school supplies, so the festival is preparing for 1,000 students this year. Along with school supplies, the festival will also host 33 different organizations that offer other resources for families in Watauga.
“Nobody wants to be the odd kid out and start the year without school supplies,” Carter said. “Kids can’t learn if they don’t have the right supplies to work on assignments and projects.”
The festival will have many mascots, including Yosef and the Chick-Fil-A Cow in order to add a more festive vibe to the event while kids shop around for the backpacks and shoes that they want. A free lunch will also be served to anyone who attends the event.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the event can do so by filling out the form on the website by Thursday. The website will also include a list of sponsors, how to donate and what is available for students and families who attend the event.
Avery County will also host its Back to School Bash on Saturday, Aug. 13. For more information, call 828-733-6006.
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