PONCHATOULA — About 700 youngsters and their parents gathered school supplies, information and free giveaways Friday at the annual 7th Ward Back to School Resource Fair at the Ponchatoula Community Center.

The event, sponsored by Judge Grace Bennett Gassaway of the City Court of Hammond, the Tangipahoa Parish School System and various corporate sponsors, gave children and their parents opportunities to meet with representatives of each of their schools, as well as several other local agencies and resource organizations.

“I like the way all the schools were here,” said Trey Varnado, who is set to start at Hammond High School this month. “Everyone was very nice.”

“This is a good thing,” said Joyce Brown, a parent who collected school supplies for her three kids.

“This is a good source of info for parents,” said Lacey Miller, who also brought her three children to the event.

Both Brown and Miller said it was the first time they had been to the event, but that they would be back.

“I have talked to a lot of students,” said Michelle Simmons, who represented Hammond High School, “There is a lot of excitement.”

“We like to think it gets people to the first day of school,” said Guy Recotta, clerk of the Hammond City Court. “If we can get them to the first day, we have almost got them.”

Tangipahoa’s 7th Ward, the southern end of the parish, has 11 schools and more than half of the parish’s approximately 20,000 students. The two biggest high schools in the parish — Ponchatoula High School and Hammond High School — both lie within the parish.

In addition to the schools, representatives from several other local agencies, such as North Oaks Health Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates and LaCHIP were present.

“We have tried to set it up as real customer friendly,” said Beth Moulds, an official with the Tangipahoa Parish School System.

This was the fourth time the event had been held, Recotta said.