The Calistoga Elementary School on Berry Street has a wonderful tradition of celebrating Back to School night on Berry Field with a festival each year, jointly hosted by the UpValley Family Center (UVFC) and the Calistoga Joint Unified School District.

There were children’s activities and entertainment, a free meal, as well as a “service provider fair” where UVFC and its 40-plus partner agencies showcased the various services that are provided to the Calistoga community.

Families had the opportunity to learn about such vital services as nutrition programs, wellness services, health insurance, pediatric dental care, preschool options, literacy programs, and more.

The Calistoga High School’s back to school celebration happened the previous evening.

New Superintendent of the Calistoga Joint Unified School District, Erin Smith-Hagberg, welcomed the student and parents on a low outdoor stage in the playground of the elementary school. Smith-Hagberg, who replaced retiring superintendent Esmeralda Mondragon, spoke briefly of her personal excitement of coming to Calistoga and the wonderful opportunities that the new school year was offering to the elementary school children.

Meanwhile, the kids ran in the field chasing one another while parents queued up for food or visited the many service information booths that dotted the field. The service organizations on hand included the North Bay Regional Center, Soroptimists International, Napa: United for Citizens, Covered California, California Highway Patrol, Girl Scouts of America, The Calistoga Art Center, Wine Country Animal Lovers, and many others. And the tables were crowded as both children and adults pressed forward to learn about what each organization offered.

There were dozens of tables set up for informal dining, complete with brightly colored tablecloths and comfortable chairs where families could enjoy the hot dogs, hamburgers, snow cones and other things to eat and socialize with other parents and kids as the evening set in.

Meanwhile, many of the children were getting ready for the games that were to be offered by a clown who was filling up beach balls to the beat of Latino music blasting from the PA system. Younger kids danced on the stage, while others donned the harnesses of the climbing wall, ascending up the 25 foot wall and then rapidly rappelling down to earth.

The official first day of the 2017-2018 instructional calendar began on Aug. 10. The last school day for the district will be May 31, 2018, with High School Graduation ceremonies scheduled for June 1, 2018.

This was the 14th annual “Back to School Night” festival offered by UpValley Family Centers and its members. Sponsors of the Back to School event included Calistoga Joint Unified School District, Cal Mart, Cottage Grove Inn, The Doctors Company, Jones Family Vineyards—Elaine and Rick Jones, Damian Maldonado Memorial Foundation, Tim Carl Photography and Westamerica Bank.

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Tom Stockwell is currently a staff writer for the St. Helena Star. He is an author of fiction and non-fiction books and has been a working journalist for a variety of technical publications as well as a consultant for numerous wineries in the Napa Valley.