Eighth grader Hunter Grant collected a hot dog, drink and chips being doled out by district administrators. Living somewhere between the high school and his own E. T. Richardson, it was easy to be the first to do so. He rode up the street with friend and neighbor Chris Patterson.

"He doesn't go to school here," Hunter volunteered as Chris was enjoying the food.

That's sort of the idea. As board member Dominic Bentivegna stressed, "We're not taking attendance. This is a community event to bring everyone together."

Hunter and Chris were among the many folks from around the district. A number was hard to gauge with families drifting in and out of the courtyard behind the high school. Some indication was the hundreds of hot dogs grilled by Executive Director Don Mooney and Facilities Director Peter Olsen with the great support of the food service staff. It was clear, however, the mood was very upbeat.

"This is the fifth picnic we've come to," said Meg Dina, there with her husband, Roy, and her daughter, Erin McBride, a 7th grader. They were animatedly chatting with Kia Brown and her daughter, Bianca, a friend and classmate of Erin. "It really does bring the community together. And it's nice to see the teachers and administrators here," she said.

Administrators from all five schools and district wide, as well as school board members, were on hand to chat with parents and give youngsters a warm greeting. First day spirits were positive among all contingents.

Whether parents, kindergartners on their very first first day, or varsity football players who are welcome to as many hot dogs as required after practice, the picnic serves up a friendly welcome back and "let's get started" for a successful year.

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