By Curt Yeomans
After four hours of cutting hair on Saturday at the East Clayton County Community Day Festival, Solomon Emerson, owner of Solo's Salon and Barber Shop in Rex, still had a line of customers waiting on him in a activity room at the Carl Rhodenizer Recreation Center.
Emerson was armed with only his chair, a brush, a comb, an electric shaver, a mirror and a pair of clippers. He was one of several business providers, government representatives and social-service organizations offering free services and information to the thousands who attended.
"It's been busy," said Emerson, as he prepared to cut a new customer's hair. "I've been packed since 10 a.m."
Attendance at the third annual festival, which is organized by State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood) and Clayton County Commissioner Sonna Singleton, had both elected officials beaming over the turnout, especially in light of temperatures that hovered near 100 degrees.
Singleton said she was "overwhelmed," because people steadily came to the festival all day. "One of the things about the East Clayton [County] Community Day Festival is that it's not just about having fun," she said. "We are providing information and education opportunities for the county ... We want people to have fun, as well as learn about the services available in the county."
"It's amazing to see the amount of participation and cooperation we've received from the community," Glanton said. "This is evidence of a community that is waking up, and is beginning to understand the importance of coming together and working together."
During the event, children had the opportunity to get their faces painted, watch a clown make swords out of balloons, play on a inflated slide, explore the Clayton County Police Department's Bomb Squad command center, or one of the county's fire trucks, make arts and crafts with officials from Arts Clayton, and go swimming in the recreation center's outdoor pool.
"I like the SWAT team [display] and I like looking at the bomb [squad] gear," said Rex resident, Jordan Black, 8, after trying on some of the police department's riot gear. "I want to be a police officer someday, because I like getting missions to do."
Madison Fletcher, 5, said she liked getting her face painted by volunteers from the House of Dawn, a shelter for homeless teenagers. "I got a flower because it looks pretty," Fletcher said. "It's a pink flower, because pink is my favorite color."
Michelle Brown, of Jonesboro, and Rex resident, Sharon Mills, said they enjoyed the opportunity to get more information about some of the services available to them in the county, such as programs at Arts Clayton; services available through the fire, police and sheriff's departments; and offerings at the parks and recreation department, and the county's library system.
"It's needed, because you can see the different services they have in the county," said Brown, who brought her daughters, Madison and Marchelle Fletcher, to the festival.
"Everybody is very open about what they do, and they have been answering all of the kids' questions," said Mills, who brought her sons, Jordan and Danny Black, and their friend, Ray Brown. "We do hear so much negative stuff about the county in the news. It's important for our kids to see the positives as well, so they can understand it's not just the bad people they see on the news who live here."
Parents got to undergo health screenings from Southern Regional Medical Center's nurses, and meet incoming Clayton County School Superintendent Edmond Heatley. Also on hand were members of the law enforcement and criminal justice community, including Police Chief Jeff Turner, Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, Solicitor General Tasha Mosley and District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.