EAST LIVERPOOL - Just because an activity is educational doesn't mean it can't be fun.
That was the lesson learned Saturday at Edupalooza - Back to School Bash, the first of what promoters hope becomes an annual event to bring education to the forefront in the city.
Sponsored by Edutech Corridor, the Edupalooza held downtown offered children from kindergarten to college a variety of activities throughout the day incorporating fun, science, technology and safety lessons.
Morning Journal/Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert
Makenna Wheatley, 7, and her brother, Landon, 4, honed their artistic skills in chalk during the Edupalooza Back to School Bash held Saturday in East Liverpool.
From the OH Wow! Children's Center for Science and Technology demonstrations on making solar s'mores and a dino-dig to balloon animals fashioned by Elise Smith for the East Liverpool High School Band, children and adults had ample opportunity for hands-on educational experiences.
In between were performances by Gary Barker as Brett Michaels, a martial arts demonstration by ATA Martial Arts of Calcutta, a demonstration by St. Clair Township Police Department K-9 team of Chris Davis and Axel, and displays of the city fire department's aerial truck, cruisers from the city police department and Ohio State Highway Patrol, Tri-County ambulances and tours of the Air Evac medical helicopter based at the county airport.
"Everything is supposed to be fun but educational," according to Pennie Zehnder, one of the founders of Edutech Corridor. "We want them to see that learning can be fun."
Booths from schools and agencies, vendors and others rounded out the day's activities with information, gifts, registration for services and more.
In addition, 112 book bags filled with school supplies were distributed to children who had previously been pre-selected through the Way Station but who had to present vouchers at the event to receive their bag and supplies.
With a $2,000 community grant from Walmart, Edutech was able to purchase the book bags and some supplies, with each of the Edutech members also contributing supplies to fill the bags, according to Zehnder.
The grant also provided funding to pay for OH Wow! to participate.
Every child who came to the event was also given a free raffle ticket toward school supplies.
Mayor Jim Swoger offered the welcome to open the event.
Edutech Corridor was the brainchild of local architect Scott Shepherd and Zehnder, the director of his firm, A&I Studios, and was founded in 2010 under the auspices of the East Liverpool Area Chamber of Commerce.
Shepherd said the idea was to open lines of communication between the educational entities that exist in the area in the hopes of spurring economic development.
"Education is the largest employer in East Liverpool," Shepherd pointed out, saying, "We are lucky" to have the Kent State University campus, Buckeye Online School for Success, Ohio Valley College of Technology in Calcutta and other educational entities in the area.
According to Shepherd, cities that have recovered from tough economic times did so because of strong educational bases such as exists in East Liverpool.
Zehnder noted, "Education is an industry and needs to be treated as such. East Liverpool is a central hub of education."
Since the inception of Edutech Corridor, members now work together to share educational opportunities, Zehnder said.
She said that, while this year's Edupalooza focused primarily on local educational entities, plans call for trying to include surrounding public school districts next year.
But with downtown streets teeming with young people eager to learn by doing on Saturday, Shepherd deemed Edutech Corridor's first Edupalooza a success.
"For the first year, I think we did really well. We wanted to do something for kids that was positive for the community," he said.