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Father Fest 2024
Posted in , on May 24, 2024

Father Fest had games, entertainment and resources

 Micah Pollard is a new dad, new husband, new to Arlington ISD, new to Arlington, period.

“Just new, new, new,” he said.Father Fest 2024

He’s a newlywed and native Houstonian who followed his wife and her eight-year-old son here. On May 19, he was also a newbie attending Arlington ISD’s 14th annual Father Fest at the Arlington ISD Athletics Center.

There, he and his stepson, Johnathon, a third grader at Swift Elementary, played in the bouncy house, hit some golf balls, dribbled basketballs around obstacles and cooled off with a giant strawberry snow cone.

Through the play, he also met two other dads who were attending the event with their third and fourth graders.

“It’s kind of cool talking to them and hearing about their schools and the challenges of being involved with them,” Pollard said.

Gary Rodriguez, an Arlington ISD parent facilitator in the families and community engagement department who helped organize Father Fest, said that’s the event’s core idea.

“What I want parents to leave with is a great experience, a fun experience, but mostly to walk away with being exposed to something that will help them and their kids,” Rodriguez said.

Father Fest step performersRodriguez gushed about everything at Father Fest that was offered to help families with various resources — not to mention the free food — but he mostly wanted the festival to be a starting point for some fathers trying to find their way as parents.

He said Father Fest is a great place for parent networking, partly because of the community partners present, such as Arlington ISD’s early childhood and library services departments, the YMCA and Texas Health and Human Services, along with dance, mentor and tutoring services.

“It looks like pretty much everything is right here,” said Joshua Petersen, who attended Father Fest with his 11-year-old son, Casey.

“We were here last year and had a good time. We remembered it was around this time of year. He reminded me about it. It’s nice, and not just because it’s something to do on a Saturday, but because it’s something that can help you down the road.”

Father Fest not only fed its participants but also entertained them. The Bowie High School Drum Line played outside the front doors as everyone entered. And step teams from Farrell and Larson elementary schools and Nichols Junior High performed their latest routines inside.

“We want people to come out and have some family fun but also to be exposed to something they may not know exists in the community,” Rodriguez said. “To say, hey, I didn’t know this was going on. I didn’t know this resource existed. To know that I could connect with this person. For example, I didn’t know there was a family and engagement team, that we have family facilitators that go to the cases, and we help support them.”

Rodriguez said that it’s a celebration for fathers.

“And we know in the school district fatherhood is not just limited to biological factors. We have a lot of grandparents who are raising kids in our school district. We have uncles, aunts and cousins and single moms doing both parts. Our fathers and families’ initiative is all about being inclusive.”

Single mother Cherie Jamison was able to pick up some books for her daughter.

Father Fest 2024“I like the fact that most of the people here are specifically about helping families,” she said. “I felt a little weird being here at first because it’s supposed to be for fathers, but it’s been fun. My daughter just loved the 360-degree photo booth. She wants to do it again and again.”

Rodriguez said the numerous dads’ clubs at various Arlington ISD campuses still ensure men remain involved in children’s lives.

“That’s an ever-going process,” Rodriguez said. “Some elementary schools and some junior highs are already established. My goal and vision is to spread it throughout the school district. I would love to have a dad’s club at all 76 campuses. And I think we can get there. There are a lot of people in our community who want to support that. When I’m out in the community talking to people, fathers, and me, getting to know them, and doing my workshops, every father and father figure I have come across has always been ready to help.

“We have no barriers to that. What we need to do, and when I say we, I mean myself, family and community engagement, and AISD, is create access and opportunity for our dads to be more engaged. They need that support.”

As Rodriguez put it, “There’s no manual” regarding parenting.

“We have many young fathers who need support. Father Fest and our initiatives say they don’t have to do it alone.”

See all the photos from Father Fest and learn more about Arlington ISD’s Fathers and Families Initiative.