BOONE — More than 1,100 students attended the seventh annual Back 2 School Festival on Aug. 10 — making it the “biggest and best” event yet, said Kendra Sink.

Sink, president of the Best 2 School Festival board and festival director, said this was her fifth year of being involved with the festival. She said that it is amazing how the community comes together each year to make the festival happen.

“I am proud of our community and (Watauga County Schools) for the dedication and excitement they bring to this event,” Sink said. “It is truly a humbling experience.”

Festival organizers plan to pack a few hundred additional backpacks for students, Sink said. The final number of students served through this year’s festival won’t be known for a few more weeks.

With the average cost of school supplies around $160 per child — not including shoes or clothing — the Back 2 School Festival provides relief for families who may be struggling to meet that cost. The nonprofits mission is to provide school supplies, new shoes and socks, backpacks, haircuts, activities, helpful information and healthy food to families, according to Back 2 School Fest organizers. It aims to do so in a fun and respectful atmosphere so that “every child in the county can start off the school year confident and prepared with the tools they need to succeed,” organizers stated.

Haircuts at the event were sponsored by the Boone Service League, which gave out 110 free haircuts and 17 gift cards. Lunch was provided by Mellow Mushroom and served by the Kiwanis Club of Boone, while Subway provided lunch to volunteers. Additional pizzas were provided by Capones, Carolina Pizza Company and Hungry Howie’s.

This year the festival raised over $47,000 and recruited hundreds of volunteers to make the event a reality. Major sponsors of the festival included Mast General Store, Watauga County, Chetola Resort, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, 4 Forty Four, North Carolina Community Foundation, Purple Crow and the George T. Baker Foundation.

Sink said it takes a village to pull off an event like Back 2 School Fest, and that organizers are always amazed at the support from the community.

“This is what it looks like when a community loves its children and supports our schools,” Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott.

The Back 2 School Festival was founded in 2013 as a collaborative effort between The Children’s Council, Western Youth Network, Hospitality House, Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge and Quiet Givers to address the need for school supplies in our area. This year was the festival’s first year as its own nonprofit. More information on the Back 2 School Festival can be found at www.back2schoolfestival.org.

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