TUPELO • While school is quickly approaching for Tupelo-area children, a weekend back-to-school bash made it feel like summer was still around. Hundreds of kids showed up in their favorite summer clothes and swim gear for the 2019 Back-2-School Bash Extravaganza on Saturday in Veterans Park.

The event was hosted by Tupelo Parks and Recreation in partnership with Real Men Stand Up and Wear It Well Inc.

The idea for the event started when Tupelo Parks and Recreation intern Raffiel Jones was planning his project for the summer. He spoke with TPR director Leigh Ann Mattox about organizing a back-to-school event where parents and kids could come out to have a good time.

“We were thinking, how about we do it the Saturday before (students) were going back to school and (have it) be something they can cherish for the rest of their lives as they’re growing older,” Jones said.

Mattox contacted Allstate, Magnolia Martial Arts, Excel by 5 and Shiver Shack to be a part of the event. Once they began advertising the event, other sponsors reached out to get involved.

It took about a month to plan the event, and the additional sponsors helped fill in any gaps.

“Within a week, we went from a few little people involved to having eight to nine different groups involved, and you always love when that happens and people are calling you wanting to join,” Mattox said.

One of the gaps sponsors helped fill was with school supplies. While Tupelo Parks and Recreation had its own supplies drive, Mattox said they did not get as many as they hoped. The Tupelo Sports Council, as well as Dream Riders, helped provide many supplies, and a number of participating groups brought their own supplies to supplement. Mattox said they had over 900 to 1,000 different supply items in total, which included lunchboxes, backpacks, crayons and other school essentials.

From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., area children enjoyed a variety of activities. With the sun shining brightly overhead, several kids lined up to enjoy the water slide. Others gathered in a splash pad, and a few took advantage of the slip and slide to cool off. Several walked around enjoying the free snow cones and snacks the event offered.

Music played as kids enjoyed games. Many children participated in a painting station, where they made pieces of art that they then left on the grass to dry.

Food and games were not all event had to offer, however. There were also tables for other event sponsors, which included Allstate, Magnolia Martial Arts, Two Dragons Martial Arts, Dream Riders and the Tupelo/Lee County Campaign for Grade Level Reading among others.

Since this was their first year planning the event, Mattox said they didn’t know what to expect, but the crowd ended up being much bigger than what was anticipated. Over 300 people showed up within the first hour, with more cycling throughout the day. Even with all the donated supplies, Mattox said they began running low early on supplies into the event because of how many people turned out.

Mattox and Jones said they hope this becomes an annual event. People have already approached Mattox with feedback for the event.

“We have had a lot of people saying this is a great idea and they knew that this was a need. Some people are thinking towards next year and saying they would love to get involved,” Mattox said.

For the next event, Mattox hopes to receive more school supplies and be able to offer students more resources such as extracurricular activities and after school programs so people can have information on what’s available during the school year.

danny.mcarthur@journalinc.com Twitter: @Danny_McArthur_

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