Youngsters get ready to go back to school at Coney Community Fair

Ready to go back: Eight-year-old Sea Gate resident Erika Gauto showed off her new pink JanSport backpack that she got at the Mermaid Avenue back-to-school street fair on Sept. 8.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

These kids are ready to rule the school.

Youngsters gathered in Coney Island on Aug. 8 for the neighborhood’s annual Back-to-School Community Fair on Mermaid Avenue. The free, four-hour fair — which stretched from W. 15th–W. 20th streets — offered a chance for locals to meet before the start of the school year, according to one Coney Island mom who attended.

“It was really fun — the community was able to connect and the people were really nice,” said Macrina Rodriguez, who attended with her 4-year-old son Oliver.

The Alliance for Coney Island sponsored the event, along with Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–Marine Park), and state Sen. Diane Savino (D–Coney Island), offering 500 free backpacks filled with school supplies for elementary and middle school students. The event also featured organizations offering free health screenings, information on job readiness programs, educational opportunities, and after-school programs — plus there was entertainment, including dance and music performances and Zumba lessons from the Coney Island YMCA.

Rodriguez said her son Oliver was so excited to score his new sports-themed backpack that he opened it up and got to work prepping for pre-K right when he got home.

“He came home all excited, and he started drawing,” she said.

A Marine Park mother said her 6-year-old son Jeremiah was also thrilled to grab a backpack filled with everything he’ll need for first grade.

“It was wonderful — he got a backpack with school supplies, books, folders, erasers, pencils,” said Nellie Echevarria.

Jeremiah also got his face painted as the Joker by the eponymous owner of Melinda’s Children’s Parties. The artist said she painted about 80 young faces at the four-hour event, adding that most kids requested classic favorites, including butterflies, rainbows, unicorns, and superheroes.

“It’s so cute what they always want — kitten and puppies and such,” said Melinda Prom.

The executive director of the Alliance said the organization was glad to host a community event and supply children with what they need to have a successful start to the school year.

“We are proud to partner with our local elected officials and local businesses to give back to the community and provide essential school supplies to students while also creating a celebratory day on Mermaid Avenue, the main commercial corridor for our residents and businesses,” said Alexandra Silversmith.

But one mom said she was just happy the event gave the kids something to do on a Saturday.

“It was really nice — there were a lot of different things for the kids to do,” said Sea Gate resident Rocio Gauto, who attended with her daughter, 8-year-old Erika. “They kept them busy.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
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