The temperature was uncharacteristically mild when Latonya Brown and her five children lined up more than seven hours before the fourth annual School is Cool event.
The cooler weather did not last long and the temperatures felt closer to the norm for a day in early August in East Texas. Luckily for the thousands of people waiting, the thermostat failed to hit 90 degrees.
The line for tickets for free backpacks filled with school supplies ran from the door of Harvey Convention Center, across the parking lot and down the street, nearly to Mike Carter Field.
LaToya Young, with the Tyler Area Business Education Council said the event had collected 1,500 backpacks to give away. Although the number of bags was smaller than 2016, Young did not anticipate anyone having to do without. Last year organizers were left with more than 500 unclaimed backpacks at the end of the evening.
The event has grown steadily each year.
“(Families) came out with coolers and food and chairs,” Young said. “They had everything.”
Inside, more than 75 volunteers and 100 teams of vendors prepared to meet the surging crowds.
“We’re going to stop at all of the stations,” Brown said. “This is great. It’s very helpful and much needed.”
Students from Star College of Cosmetology were on hand to do free haircuts at the Rose Garden Center. The barbers-in-training said the opportunity to cut the hair of so many boys was invaluable because they don’t often get male customers at the beauty school.
Renee Johnson said the event was a huge help. Her son Malachi, 9, was able to get a haircut, his eyes checked and supplies for the new year, saving her money for clothes and other necessities.
She said they arrived at 11:30 a.m. to ensure they got a ticket
“We played games on our phones, wrote on the sidewalk with chalk and just got to know everybody else waiting,” Jordan said.
Attendees also were able to have immunizations done and get information about community health and education resources.
“This is such a great partnership with the City of Tyler and the Business Education Council,” Tyler ISD Director of Communications Dawn Parnell said. “They help supply many of students with all the necessary items to start the school year. It’s not just the backpacks.”
The first day of school for Tyler ISD is Monday, Aug. 28.