Kim Downes has a mission - to prepare kids and their parents for the impending start of the new school year.
Downes organized the county's Back-to-School Festival to make sure everyone is ready for school to begin. The festival is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Evans High School, 4550 Cox Road.
"The idea is to give families what they need to be ready for the school year," said Downes.
A joint venture of the Columbia County Board of Education, University Hospital and The Columbia County News-Times, the festival features basic health screenings and information about immunization requirements from pediatricians, nutrition and diet tips, drug, alcohol and safety awareness tips, information on before- and after-school child care programs, registration for dance classes, sports and other recreational programs, and information on school calendars and bus schedules.
"From what I understand (the bus schedules are) a big deal for folks," Downes said. "They want to know obviously what time the bus is going to pick up their children, what time they are going to drop them off and what route they are going."
Of the more than 50 booths at the festival, Downes said, 17 involve the county school system, including transportation and nutrition.
A popular visitor at last year's festival, Buster, a robot shaped like a school bus, will return to give kids bus safety tips and answer questions about bus routes.
"He'll be there, and that's really fun for the kids," she said. A real school bus will be on hand for smaller kids, especially first-timers, to see and get comfortable with. "He talks to kids about getting on and off the school bus. He'll be there throughout the day."
Pediatricians will be there to review immunizations records in coordination with state requirements.
The seventh annual festival is geared mostly toward elementary-age children, though information will be available for students through high school.
Downes said many nonschool-affiliated organizations will have booths at he festival, including the Girl Scouts, child care centers, The Family Y, a college planning organization, an insurance company discussing college savings accounts, and others providing concessions.
Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue will have a fire truck at the festival, and the Columbia County Sheriff's Office will take children's photos and fingerprints for the ID-A-Child program.
Two martial arts groups will perform demonstrations.
"They'll break the bricks and the boards and all that," Downes said. "There will be a fashion show with school-appropriate clothes that will be featured (at noon)."
Some school parent-teacher organizations will be at the festival to answer questions and sell school supply bags coordinated with their school's supply list.
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