More than a dozen community organizations and businesses were on hand providing information, resources and entertainment as part of the mall’s Back-to-School Kids’ Fair.
Washington County Free Library was among the participants. Jeff Ridgeway, head of the library’s children’s services, talked with kids from the community to see what they are reading and what’s interesting to them, he said. They frequently named favorites such as Junie B. Jones and Samuel Blink.
“We saw an awful lot of kids,” Ridgeway said. “It’s good for the library to get out into the community and see the people who visit and to try to get people who don’t to come in.”
Library representatives engaged children with printed word games and make-your-own back-to-school bookmarks. Public relations librarian Pat Wishard said a lot of families received information about the library’s programs, including databases for 24/7 homework help and downloadable books as well as story times and movie nights.
“It’s been wonderful letting the public know what we have to offer. And we have so many things, they like to know,” she said.
Hagerstown Children’s Theater offered performances and information. Taylor Ferrera, a show director with the theater, sat singing along at a vendor table as a friend strummed the guitar. Ferrera said the fair provided “a great opportunity to get our name out.”
“It’s a chance to see all the various opportunities the community provides for whatever kids need,” Ferrera said. “Plenty of people have stopped by who have never heard of us, but who have kids who would love to have a chance to perform.”
Carol Rosicky, teacher director at Open Arms Christian Child Development Center, also was pleased to have access to so many people in the community. She made butterflies out of coffee filters with children while she chatted with parents.
“This gives us access to a lot of people,” she said. “Our main purpose is just to let the community know we are here.”
Cassandra Coffman, 40, of Hagerstown, visited the table of tote and purse company Thirty-One.
“I’m considering being a consultant,” Coffman said. “I think this event is wonderful. Almost like a one-stop shop where you can find things you wouldn’t normally know about.”
Brandi Stum, 24, of Waynesboro, Pa., shopped with her boyfriend, Shane Mummert, 25, as well as her sister, Faith Kulp, 7, and her daughter, Hailey, 3.
Vendor The Little Gym caught the girls’ attention with colorful balloons, so Stum stopped to sign up for a chance to win some giveaways.
“I think the fair is a nice idea,” she said. “For some parents, it’s their kids’ first time going to school. A lot of these resources could be really helpful to parents.”
Michele Wills, Valley Mall marketing director, said it was the mall’s second year for the back-to-school event. Vendors catered to children across a spectrum of ages from preschools to colleges including Kaplan College and the University System of Maryland.
“We knew on the last day of tax-free shopping there would be a lot of traffic,” Wills said. “We just wanted to put out resources for families with children.”