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Back-to-school carnival big success

Months of preparation led to one of the most successful back-to-school events in Unicoi County.
The brainchild of Wendy Broyles picked up traction and cumulated in the inaugural Back To School Carnival held at the Erwin Nine/SFC Mark Edwards National Guard Armory on Saturday, July 26.
With a start time at noon, the event welcomed over 1,000 individuals, according to Lee, to take part in the event.
“By the time we opened up the doors, they were lined up almost to the main road,” Lee said.
From face painting, inflatables to refreshments, participants were welcomed to a bevy of fun while children in grades K-5 received backpacks with supplies for the upcoming school year.
“We didn’t turn any children away,” Wendy said. “I know there are families here from Washington County and Carter County. This is overwhelming. I did not expect the turnout we had from the families or the vendors.”
The amount of support leading up to the event showed what the community can do when working as one, Wendy added.
“Everyone came together,” she said. “There are different churches here, civic groups, volunteers … I had people calling me that I didn’t know who they were asking to help.”
Different groups were represented throughout the event on Saturday. Different police officers and firefighters took part in assisting with the event. Students at Unicoi County High School assisted by volunteering for capstone hours while organizations like the Moose Lodge in Unicoi County, Capitol Cinema, Wal-Mart and the health department had booths set up inside the facility.
“It is incredible,” Wendy said. “Just seeing the community working together is amazing.”
In a previous interview with The Erwin Record, Wendy mentioned that she and her husband, Lee, attended a similar event at Harmony Free Will Baptist Church in Hampton.
“I know they were doing theirs today, too,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons we picked today. If families were unable to make it there, we wanted them to come here. I know Washington County will be holding some next week.”
With the success of the first-ever event, the plan is expanding next year, according to Wendy, to include grades K-8 on the front burner for 2016.
“I don’t know if it will work,” she said. “Its all about the turnout and the support but that’s what our goal is for next year.”