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Dallas Mayor's Back-To-School Fair Kicks Off Today

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The Mayor's Back-to-School Fair kicked off today in Dallas.

Things started off on a good rhythm. Before the sun came up there were adorable kids tearing up the dance floor (parking lot) and the party kept going after sunrise when Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings joined in on the fun and tried to keep pace (and tempo) with the younger crowd.

Before the afternoon ends there are expected to be some 40,000 people attending this year's fair inside the Automobile and Centennial Buildings at Fair Park.

A lot of families started lining up overnight. Simone Leffall, a grandmother and foster mother, had imagined the line to get inside would have been shorter this morning. "I thought I was getting here early by getting here about 6:50, but evidently not," she said laughing.

While the fair is open to anyone who wants to attend, school supplies will only be given public-school children who either live in the City of Dallas or attend a Dallas Independent School District school. To qualify for the free supplies, the student's family must also meet Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.

The students who meet eligibility requirements not only get free school supplies, but also have access to free health, dental and vision screenings, immunizations and haircuts. The fair also provides the latest information on education, health and social services.

There was a huge turnout at the 2015 Fair and new this year, all of the families who pre-registered their pre-K and elementary school students will receive a free backpack.

In addition to the free school supplies, the Fair has partnered with businesses across the city. Dallas-based Half Price Books is giving away 7,000 books to students.

In addition to current Mayor Rawlings, former Mayor Ron Kirk also attended the event. Kirk, who was DAllas' first African American mayor,  started the Back-to-School Fair in the city.

Mayor Rawlings talked about how the Fair fills a void in a lot of student's lives. "Most of our kids in DISD are at the poverty level and below, and this is a way to say 'we're gonna take that burden off of you.'"

Preregistration was suggested but not required. Anyone can go to Fair Park and sign up on site.

The Dallas Mayor's Back-to-School Fair runs from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

If you're concerned about parking, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is offering free bus rides at Highland Hills Library to and from the Fair. Buses will leave the library on the hour from 9 a.m. to noon.

There are a lot of reasons to celebrate this year. The Dallas public schools event is also marking a major milestone – it's the 20th anniversary of the Mayor's Back-to-School Fair.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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