On Wednesday (Aug 3) morning, the Marshall County Back To School Fun Fair takes place at the former West Virginia Penitentiary.

There are a lot of school supply giveaways these days.

But this one was perhaps the first and has set the bar high.

More than a thousand kids and parents turn out each year.

They’ve got miles of school supplies.

But they also have home supplies for families—mac and cheese, breakfast cereals, shampoo, body wash, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant and paper goods.

23 years ago, Susie Baker started the event, expecting about 300 kids.

900 showed up.

“We had no idea,” Baker recalls. “We prayed that they would come, and they came.”

What prompted this parent educator for Marshall County Schools to start the Fun Fair?

It all started with a few cases of head lice!

“Beginning of school, there were some kids going home with head lice,” Baker recalls. “And I thought, well, we have to do something about this. We have to fix it. So that’s how the Back To School Fun Fair came about. We decided to give free haircuts, and in order to get a haircut, you had to get your scalp screened first.”

Now they also have scoliosis screenings and eye and dental exams.

And of course school supplies, including planners, notebooks, glue sticks, pens, markers, crayons, and backpacks in every style and color.

The Fun Fair starts at 9 a.m.

But parents and kids arrive hours earlier.

“The community will start lining up right around 4 a.m., “ said Amanda Wolverton, general manager of the Moundsville Economic Development Council. “Last year, I think it was right around 3:30.”

It levels the playing field for all kids, giving many a sense of being prepared rather than scared.

“They’re walking in with their very own backpack,” said Christie Robison, vice president of the Marshall County Board of Education and a retired teacher. “Their very own pencils, glue, whatever it is. And I think the younger the child, the more precious it is to them.”

48 agencies take part, from 4-H Dog Obedience to the Wheeling Symphony.

The newest is Stephanie’s All Stars.

“Any sport that your child is playing, whether it be basketball, football, baseball, Stephanie’s All Stars will help you get the equipment if you are not able to do that,” said Baker.

She says no one takes advantage.

“There’s more need than greed,” she says. “In the 23 years, we’ve never had anyone come through here who was not grateful and thankful. There’s so much more need in the county than you would believe.”

There are also 50 chances to win prizes.

There are gift cards from Kroger, WalMart, Shoe Sensations and Dollar Tree, as well as cleaning baskets, food baskets, games and toys.