Ambrose earns first Cup win

Marcos Ambrose

Russ Hamilton Sr.

Black clouds and torrential rains were not enough to deter thousands of parents and children from the city of Charleston's 8th annual First Day Festival on Concord Street.

It was the kind of traffic you would see at a rock concert, and it was for an event designed to get people excited about going back to school.

They began arriving hours before the festival started, drawn by promises of free school supplies, free admission to the aquarium and a festive atmosphere to celebrate the start of another school year.

Nearly 4 inches of rain fell in downtown Charleston on Sunday, flooding many streets. But it didn't dampen the festival.

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley was standing near the aquarium Sunday afternoon to witness the excitement of the event.

"It's really been amazing," he said.

Riley has been encouraging parents to take their children to school on the first day, and he was asking businesses to give parents time off to do so.

School starts today in Dorchester County, Tuesday in Berkeley County and Wednesday in Charleston County.

The festival opened at 1 p.m., but crowds were there waiting at 9:30 a.m., while 300 volunteers were setting up. Heavy rains moved people into the nearby parking garage for a while, but they were back in force as soon as the rains let up.

At 2:30 p.m., long double lines of cars were crawling in and out of the parking garage, which was offering $1 rates for the afternoon. The sidewalks between the garage and the aquarium were packed with people three and four abreast.

Within an hour after the festival opened, all 7,000 of the free backpacks were gone. So were thousands of free books, binders, rulers and other school supplies donated by local businesses.

Cherene Mack of North Charleston was one of the lucky ones. She arrived early with her two children and their two cousins, and they all stocked up on supplies.

"I'm just trying to get all the help I can get in this economy," Mack said.

Malik Robinson, a student at Sixth Grade Academy in North Charleston, was toting a new backpack.

"I'm ready (to get back to school)," he said. "Three months is long enough."