FORT WORTH -- Wanting to beat the crowds and hot weather, Vicky Hernandez showed up just before 6 a.m. Wednesday at the Tarrant County Back to School Roundup.
She was shocked to see hundreds of families already in line, some of whom camped out overnight for the free school supplies, health screenings, haircuts and more.
"I didn't want to be standing in line outside with four kids in 100-degree weather," said Hernandez, whose four children attend Helbing Elementary School in Fort Worth. "But I'm glad it was really well-organized this year, so the lines moved fast once the doors opened."
The event, held at the Will Rogers Memorial Center's Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall, is a partnership among the county, local school districts, state agencies, nonprofits and corporate sponsors to provide services and back-to-school supplies to low-income families.
This year's participants said they noticed a marked improvement in traffic flow for families moving through the exhibits hall.
"The first time I came a few years ago, it was just crazy," said Maribel Garcia, whose three children attend Everman schools. "Last year, it was extremely hot, and we waited in line for a long time outside. But this year, we spent maybe 40 minutes in line before the doors opened, and then it moved really fast."
Helping to keep things orderly was a preregistration requirement. In past years, participants were allowed to arrive the day of the event and then had to go through screening before being allowed in or, in some cases, turned away.
Organizers said that 12,000 students preregistered and that 10,000 school supply packets were handed out Wednesday.
Event spokeswoman Becky Mayad said the extreme heat might have kept some from coming out.
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700