Record Number of Nearly 1,200 Children Attend Back 2 School Festival

Published Monday, August 6, 2018 at 10:10 am

The Watauga County Back 2 School Festival continued to see increased demand as close to 1,200 school children attended the half-day festival to receive backpacks, shoes, school supplies, haircuts and more.

“We were able to serve a record number of children, beginning at 9:00 a.m. with our “Quiet Hour” for families with special needs children,” stated Back 2 School Festival coordinator Kendra Sink. “We are so grateful for the financial support and community collaboration that makes all this possible.”

Families and children attending the sixth annual festival, presented by Mast General Store, ECRS, Boone Optimist Club, 4 Forty Four Builders, Snow Masonic Lodge #363, Watauga County Community Foundation, Walmart and Purple Crow Authentic Hispanic Products, were treated to a pizza lunch provided by Mellow Mushroom, Capone’s, Bella’s, Carolina Pizza Company and Hungry Howie’s, cookies from Appalachian Cookie Company and F.A.R.M. Café and complimentary refillable water bottles from Wendy’s Tar Heel Capital. Festival and booth volunteers were treated to coffee and breakfast from Panera, while lunch included sandwiches provided by Subway.

Families began lining up nearly three hours before the festival doors opened. Once inside, each child checked in to their respective school table before heading to the large backpack shopping area. The Watauga High School auxiliary gym was dedicated to school supplies while the primary gym housed the shoe department, where over 900 pairs of shoes were given out, along with activity and resource booths from churches, business and nonprofits.

“Families look forward to bringing their children to the festival,” says Valle Crucis and Cove Creek School Social Worker Amy Michael. “Being able to choose your ‘own’ things is important and fun. I remember those butterfly feelings from my childhood as I shopped for items on my school list and the Back 2 School Festival provides this for all children, regardless of means.”

In addition to backpacks, shoes and school supplies, families were able to receive free eye screenings from Western Carolina Eye Associates, pick up dental health supplies from OP Smiles and sign up for SNAP food assistance with Second Harvest Food Bank. Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, Hospitality House and F.A.R.M. Full Circle hosted a free farmer’s market that included how-to recipes, popsicles made from locally grown produce and a touch, taste, smell educational activity. Craft booths continued to be popular with kids being able to make stovepipe paper hats with Mountainside Community Church, slime with Highlands Union Bank and bracelets with the Girl Scouts.

“The Back 2 School Festival is invaluable in helping so many families get off to a good start, sending their children to school prepared for a productive year of learning,” stated Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott. “We are fortunate in Watauga County to have the support of such compassionate and giving community members.

Additional sponsors included Boone Service League, Lauren Jaquays LGBTQ Youth Alliance, Goodwill Industries of Northwest N.C., Carolina West Wireless, Boone Sunrise Rotary, First National Bank, Rumple Memorial Presbyterian, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, Profit’s Grove Baptist, County Commissioner Larry Turnbow and Blue Ridge Energies.

Mingling and engaging the crowd of over two-thousand throughout the day were fan-favorite mascots Grizzy of the High Country Grizzlies, Appalachian State’s Yosef, the Chick-fil-A Cow and Appalachian Regional Library’s Arly. In particular, Grizzy collected school supplies in his backpack side-by-side with the school children in the auxiliary gym.

Families that were unable to attend the festival are encouraged to follow up with their school’s social worker so that every child has what they need to begin the school year.

The Back 2 School Festival, started in 2013 as a collaborative effort between The Children’s Council, Western Youth Network, Hospitality House, Quiet Givers and others seeks to streamline local school readiness efforts in order to have a greater impact on the community. It was designed to serve any family struggling to afford the high costs of back-to-school shopping in a fun, dignified and respectful environment. Their goal is for all kids to start school feeling confident and prepared for the year ahead.

Learn more about the Back 2 School Festival by visiting back2schoolfestival.org.

 

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