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Back 2 School Block Party
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Over 2,000 people poured into Covington Square Saturday afternoon for food, fun, and free school supplies in the first annual Back 2 School Block Party, far exceeding expectations of the 24 participating organizations.

"We were so pleased with the turn out for it and the response of the attendees but also our partners who helped sponsor the event," said Josephine Kelly, director of Main Street Covington, the host organization.

Kelly said the partners, who had originally planned for about 1000 attendees, were excited about starting a new tradition and were already lining up to be part of next year's event.

Bea Jackson, Director of the Washington Street Community Center, said that the event had achieved its goal of getting "everybody behind sending our kids off in a really positive way for a great school year." The Center, along with the Newton County Community Partnership and other civically minded groups, helped organize handing out 350 canvas tote bags filled with some of the supplies recommended by the Newton County School System.

The Square, which was cordoned off for the event, was packed with families and crowds of kids who wandered between booths handing out information, food, and school supplies to giant inflatable moonbounces while tired parents rested on park benches, taking in the scene. Attendees were also entertained with salsa demonstrations from Mainstream Dance, magic acts, and praise teams performances from various churches.

The Newton High School Rams football team and booster club made a strong showing, staffing the inflatables and helping to clean up afterwards. An industrial sized grill kept their booth supplied with food as people lined up down the block for free hot dogs.

"Really, we just wanted to get out and have a chance for the community to see us with the new staff and what we think is a new look for our program," said Nick Collins, head coach of the Rams. Originally, they had planned to do a community event at the school, he said, but decided to join the block party instead.

Covington First United Methodist Church went through two bushels of boiled peanuts, 36 gallons of lemonade and over 1000 balloons at their booth, said Pastor John Whatley, who was handing out red balloons to delighted kids.

Emily Aikens, 12, going into 7th grade at Clements Middle School, and Michael Aikens, 10, going to 5th grade at Porterdale Elementary, had come for the supply bags but stayed for the inflatable moonwalks, which they went on 10 times. They were sad to see summer vacation end but looked forward to the start of school.

Nancy Harvill and Linda Hanna, who were manning the City of Covington's booth, said their supply of 2000 hard hats ran out very quickly. "We thought it'd be a good turn out," said Hanna, who was on the committee to plan the Block Party. "We're hoping to do it bigger and better next year."

Eventually, said Hanna, they hope to be able to reach the level of a similar celebration in Cobb County that provides free backpacks filled with school supplies.