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Volunteer, Noah Schoeck, 14, of Meriden, helps out in handing out hundreds of backpacks during the 11th annual Back to School Expo at City Park in Meriden, Tuesday, August 19, 2014. The firefighters union collected and stuffed 1,500 backpacks to disburse Tuesday. Schoeck's parents, Cristina and Steven, are both Meriden firefighters.  |  Dave Zajac / Record-Journal
Jennifer Palta, 9, right, of Meriden, and sister Amanda, 5, decorate their backpacks during the 11th annual Back to School Expo at City Park in Meriden, Tuesday, August 19, 2014.   |  Dave Zajac / Record-Journal

Meriden’s Back to School Expo draws thousands to City Park


MERIDEN — A line of students and their families stretched around City Park Tuesday, winding from Bunker Avenue to Warren Street, and down Park Avenue, waiting to receive a free backpack and supplies during the 11th annual Back to School Expo.

“We were waiting for a long time,” said 8-year-old Sinahy Trujillo. By noon though, with backpack in hand she said, “It was worth it.”

Vendors and residents filled City Park during the three-hour event. This marked the first year for the expo at City Park. It was previously held at the Hub site downtown.

“With the Hub under construction though, we obviously couldn’t have it there,” organizer Ryan Gilhuly said. “It’s so much better here though, with all the shade we’re getting.”

Gilhuly is a member of Meriden Firefighters Union Local 1148, which took over running the Back to School Expo last year.

“It’s really rewarding seeing all these people here, and we really couldn’t do it without all the help we get from the community,” Gilhuly said.

The firefighters union collected and stuffed 1,500 backpacks to hand out Tuesday, a number firefighter Brendan Noonan hoped would be enough.

Eyeing the line with an hour left in the expo, Noonan said, “it looks like we’re going to be close,” adding that last year, there were about 30 fewer backpacks than students in line.

“If anything, I hope we have a couple left over, because that would mean everyone who wanted one, got one,” he said.

The backpacks, color-coded by their intended school grade level, were stuffed with items such as books, binders, notebooks, pens, pencils, and crayons, Noonan said.

“It’s all my favorite,” said Rayrey Maldonado, 10. “We come every year.”

Families began the event by receiving a Back to School Expo passport, which they had to get stamped at five different booths run by city and civic organizations before they were eligible to pick up a backpack.

mcallahan@record-journal.com (203) 317-2279 Twitter: @MollCal



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