Clayton school children and their parents attending the Chick-fil-A Back to School Bash began arriving at the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro recreation area at 8:30 a.m., more than two and a half hours before the scheduled start time of the event, highlighted by the children receiving free school supplies.
By 11 a.m., when officials of Chick-fil-A and the Clayton County Public Schools officially opened the doors to let in the assembled multitude, the line to the front door snaked around nearly half of the recreation building and got longer throughout the day.
According to Eric Stallings, general manager of the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House in Forest Park, 4,670 people, including more than 2,000 youngsters, attended this fourth year of the Back to School Bash, more than 1,600 more than last year’s event.
“We had more than 2,500 red Back to School book bags to give out to the students and we had few, if any, remaining,” he said. “We have had large crowds before but the response this year was overwhelming and the biggest crowd we have had.”
In addition to giving away the school supplies, the youngsters were faced with selecting which of more than six inflatables to ride, as well as booths set up throughout the building representing many groups and organizations in Clayton County, including two local Boy Scouts of America Cub Scout packs, which had a great recruiting response.
The Chick-fil-A restaurants in Clayton and Henry counties combined their efforts to put on the Back to School Bash, Stallings said.
In addition to him, those organizing and conducting the event on site included Chris Smith, general manager at the Riverdale Dwarf House, Jonesboro Dwarf House General Manager Joe Wilburn, Tracy Fleming, general manager of the Lovejoy Station restaurant and Southlake Mall Chick-fil-A General Manager Doug Richardson.
Other Chick-fil-A general managers taking part included Jesse Gilcrist of the Truitt’s Grill in Morrow and Stockbridge Dwarf House General Manager Michael Burgess.
According to Stallings, Burgess started the Back to School Bash program when he was the general manager of the Morrow Truett’s Grill.
Stallings said the event, which Chick-fil-A officials began planning for more than five months ago, proves residents value education and want their children to have the supplies they need get a good start as Clayton County Public Schools started the 2012-13 school year last Monday.
“We were surprised by the big crowd but, thanks to what we had learned from our past Back to School events, we were prepared and things went smoothly,” Stallings said, adding discussions have already begun for the next bash.