It’s fun, it’s free, it’s…

ESCANABA – With summer winding down and the school year fast approaching, it is time for children and parents to prepare for the annual Daily Press Children’s Back-to-School and Health Fair.

The event is free for children and their families and will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 3, in the Ruth Butler Building at the U.P. State Fairgrounds.

The year 2014 marks the fifth year for the event, which first began as a way to inform families about new immunization requirements.

“The health department (Public Health – Delta and Menominee Counties) came from the very beginning and offered vaccinations at a very reasonable cost, which is actually the only thing that costs anything,” said Daily Press Publisher Dan McDonald. “Everything else is completely free, and now it’s a big event that ties in the immunizations to fitness and health and all kinds of fun.”

Last year more than 1,000 people were estimated to have attended the fair, according to McDonald, a number that has grown over the years.

Though Public Health – Delta and Menominee Counties will return to offer immunizations at a reduced rate, this year’s back-to-school and health fair will feature many new and returning sponsors and fun activities as well.

One of the new events this year is a hot dog eating contest with participants from area high school football teams including Escanaba, Gladstone, Bark River-Harris, Rapid River, and North Central.

There will be three heats of the hot dog eating contest at 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2 p.m.

“The school that eats the most hot dogs, we will be donating $500 back to their booster club,” said Daily Press Advertising Manager Ann Troutman. Second and third place teams in the contest will receive $300 and $200 for their booster clubs respectively.

Also new is the Delta County Regional Inclusive Community Coalition (RICC)’s “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” program, designed to give children a chance to experience what day-to-day life is like for people with physical disabilities.

The Lions Club sponsored Project KidSight program is also new this year, and will provide vision screenings for children at the event at no cost.

Super One Foods is a new major sponsor at the health fair and will feature a booth offering healthy snacks and Jilbert’s Dairy products.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also scheduled to attend with sea lampreys to offer sea lamprey education to those in attendance.

Returning this year is the Michigan Masons’ Michigan Child Identification Program. Each child who goes through the program will receive a dental impression kit, a CD containing a photo, video, digital fingerprints, and the child’s vital information – which can be used to issue an Amber Alert.

Additional highlights of the event include disc golf, putt-putt golf, AAA driver training simulators and an obstacle course, and a smoke house. The Delta Area Transit Authority and Escanaba Area Public Schools will be offering bus rides at the health fair.

Dag the Dog of the Escanaba Public Safety K-9 Unit will present a demonstration at 3 p.m. during the event.

Northern Lights YMCA will lead Zumba demonstrations and offer information on the benefits of YMCA membership, while Engineered Machined Products (EMP) will be on hand with the Escanaba Robomos Team, whose robot will do demonstrations for those in attendance. EMP will continue to offer information to youth on the education needed for a career in engineering or manufacturing jobs.

Papa Murphy’s is providing pizza for the event and OSF St. Francis Hospital will once again offer information to children and parents on germs and hand hygiene.

A live remote broadcast of the health fair will be provided by the Eagle 107.3 FM, which will also be having kids on the air broadcasting live during the event.

The U.P. Stump Jumpers 4 Wheel Drive Club will also be on hand as will Smokey Bear, Rampart Emergency Medical Services, area police agencies, Raptor Rehab, face painting, arts and crafts, and more.

In addition to immunizations, information, and prizes handed out at individual sponsor booths, children and their parents will also have opportunities to take home bigger prizes through competitions and raffles.

Battery-powered cars from a power wheels driving course, sponsored by Classic Auto Collision, will be raffled off to participating children. Returning this year are “report cards” which are given to children and stamped at each booth at the fair. Once the card has been filled out, it is placed into a drawing for an Apple iPad Mini or LeapFrog LeapPad. The winners are announced live on the Eagle Monday morning. The cards will also be used in a second drawing where parents can win a free dinner and movie tickets for two.

Each child will receive a goodie bag with school supplies and other back-to-school related items.

Major sponsors of the Children’s Back-to-School and Health Fair are the Daily Press, The Eagle 107.3, Northern Lights YMCA, OSF St. Francis Hospital, Papa Murphy’s, EMP, and Super One.

For more information on the event, call the Daily Press at 786-2021.