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VICENZA, Italy — It looked and sounded pretty much like it will in a few weeks.

But Thursday’s Back 2 School Bash at Caserma Ederle wasn’t really designed as a rehearsal for the first day of classes. The event, held for the first time in Vicenza, was geared as much for parents as it was for youngsters.

“We just wanted to get together and have fun,” said organizer Nancy Maddy, the 22nd Area Support Group’s liaison with the local schools. “We need more community.”

And a good part of the community showed up. Hundreds of children and parents attended the afternoon gathering and about two dozen community organizations had tables set up to throw some information at them.

Karla Ayala, president of the local Parent Teacher Student Association chapter, said she had 23 new members sign up and there was still some time to go. For a community the size of Vicenza, where there were about 160 members in the group last year, “that’s good,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of new faces come by. It’s working out well.”

Of course, with more than 1,000 soldiers from the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) assigned to places such as Iraq and Liberia, there were a lot of faces missing.

But AFN-Vicenza was on hand to help out a bit with that. Personnel taped 30 video greetings to send to deployed soldiers.

Kaokalia Yang’s husband is deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

That leaves her with Maggie, who will be attending second grade, and 4-year-old Joshua.

“I’m more aware of the community services here,” she said after touring through the booths and watching her children play.

Like Yang, Stacey Leak — standing a few feet away — also isn’t a newcomer to Vicenza. But she found out some more information about a couple of groups on base she may join.

“I’m thinking about it,” she said, while holding her 6-month-old daughter Serena. A second daughter, Destiny, 2, is too young for school. But daughter Jacquanesha looked ready to join the second grade. She doesn’t know who her teacher will be yet, though.

Alice Herring, the elementary school principal, said parents will find out Thursday night at a school open house who their children’s teachers are.

“That will be the time when all the questions are answered,” she said.

But Thursday’s event might have cleared up a few matters. And it also gave parents a chance to pick up some free school supplies thanks to the Full Gospel Congregation. Many others can do some shopping or watch movies the last few days of summer vacation thanks to dozens of gift certificates given away by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.

Starting Sept. 2, summer’s over and school begins.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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