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story.lead_photo.caption Sally Carroll/McDonald County Press Jose Hernandez-Lopez (left) guides his son, Josque, while he tries to find the perfect backpack. Several lucky winners were able to pick out a backpack at the Noel First Friday/Back-To-School Bash. The Noel Betterment Association teamed up with the Noel Elementary and Primary schools to host the event, which drew a huge crowd to enjoy games, music, a free waterslide, treats and more.

Omar Sosa stacked his six doughnuts on top of each other, then looked at the pile with a little bit of trepidation. He knew he would have to eat those half-dozen doughnuts as quickly as he could.

Across the way, Addilynn Deere got a free hot dog at the Tyson booth, while Brooklea Anderson enjoyed a slice of sweet watermelon.

Meanwhile, Jahan Villagran tried his hand at shooting some targets at one of the many booths.

Activities abounded at the Noel First Friday, a collaborative effort of the Noel Betterment Association and the Noel Primary and Elementary schools.

The event on Friday night, which featured a back-to-school block party, was a huge hit. Numerous families with youngsters flooded the grounds right alongside Main Street.

One of the most popular features proved to be a waterslide. Kevin and Judy Vance of Affordable Inflatables of Northwest Arkansas quickly set up "The Dolphin," the latest inflatable waterslide their company acquired, Judy Vance said.

Once it was up and running, a long line of youngsters waited for a chance to have a free ride down the waterslide. Judy said being a part of the event is enjoyable for her and her husband, too. "It's letting everyone have lots of fun," she said.

Many teachers were on hand to man booths, offering candy for participants. Fourth grade Noel Elementary teacher Denise Glenn said the booth she was manning featured a Nerf gun target game. Teachers brought Nerf guns from home, as well as regular plastic cups. Youngsters enjoyed trying to knock down the tower of plastic cups with Nerf pellets.

Glenn said a number of kids participated in the game and a good crowd was on hand for the event. She said teaming up with the Noel Betterment Association enlarged and expanded the back-to-school block party.

"It's a great thing," she said. "It's bigger than it has been the past two years. The kids really seem to love it."

The block party offers teachers a chance to see current students, past students and those who will be in their class this year. "It means a lot to us," Glenn said.

As part of the event, several lucky winners were able to pick out a backpack. As their names were called, students were able to choose a new backpack for school.

For Donna Hannah, the event was a chance to show her handcrafted wares. As a way to encourage more participation, officials did not charge vendors a participation fee. As an artist, Hannah said she appreciated being able to showcase her items without paying a fee.

Hannah had handstitched and crocheted items, including "scrubbies," hand towels, pet rocks and more. "I have cute things for kids. The pet rocks are only 50 cents," Hannah said, showing one off.

Hannah enjoys crafting and says making items relaxes her. In turn, she hopes others benefit from her creativity.

"I hope somebody takes something home and uses it," she said.

Before the doughnut eating contest, as families milled around, music blared and children squealed in delight on the waterslide, Noel Betterment Association treasurer Denae Murphy said officials considered the crowd "a really good turnout."

Allie Peck, the association city representative, said the association is proud to be a part of such an event. "We love how big the turnout is," Peck said. "We hope it continues to be a positive impact on the community."

Within a few minutes, several neighbors gathered to participate in the doughnut eating contest. Jesus Sosa won the contest handily. After being declared the winner, Sosa said he recently won the chocolate pie eating contest at the Southwest City's Old Timers' Day, so he felt he had a title to defend.

He said the key is to "keep calm and drink water" in between taking the big gulps of doughnuts.

Murphy proudly added that Sosa, who works for the Noel Housing Authority, recently became an American citizen.

Officials plan to continue the First Friday events this fall. A movie will be the feature at the September event, and a chili cook-off will be the main feature in October.

General News on 08/09/2018

Print Headline: Families Find Fun at Noel's First Friday

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