Free school supplies given away at Back to School Fest

Lines, hot sun doesn't deter families

Students get a chance to fill their backpack with free school supplies.
Students get a chance to fill their backpack with free school supplies.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of families waited in line at the Jacksonville Landings Saturday for free school supplies at the fifth annual Back to School Fest.

Organizers said there were more people at the Landing for this year's Back To School Fest than any of the previous years. They said the lines usually die down around 11 a.m., but this year people were lined up here long past then.

"I came at 5:30 in the morning, because every time I come here I have to come early because of the lines," said Dolores Santiago, who was first in line.

And there were definitely lines, wrapped around the Jacksonville Landing as thousands waited for supplies.

Mayor Alvin Brown gave away the first of the 200,000 supplies-filled backpacks given away today. And for many parents, like single mom Riahnnon Blanchard, the books, backpacks and pencils go a long way.

 "It's great. It really is a big help," Blanchard said. "My mom works for Sam's Club so she told me about it and it really helps out, it makes a difference."

 Organizers said they know how tough it can be for parents to get the supplies they need. So they are glad the Jacksonville Landing, Walmart, Sam's Club and PepsiCo can come together to help.

"We know that economic pressure that families are under and getting ready for school is very expensive," said Jennifer Stemson, senior marketing manager at PepsiCo. "We feel like the kids are able to leave with a backpack full of supplies and we hope that that provides a lot of assistance in helping them start school."

With a fashion show, dancers, singers and other entertainment organizers also wanted to make this year's Back to School Fest fun for families. And from the looks of things, they succeeded.

"It's a little hot but it's worth it," Blanchard said. "It teaches the kids patience to actually have to wait. And they get good things out of it. School supplies, good times, free stuff, you can't beat that."

Organizers said this year's event was a success and they've already started planning for next year.