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Bash gears crowd for school

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 11:43 PM

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TAMPA -

Jacob Friend smiled widely as the last bits of his clipped hair fell to the ground.

Jacob, 8, was one of more than 100 children expected to get a back-to-school trim Saturday from Great Clips stylists. The haircuts were part of the 17th annual Back To School Bash, held Saturday and today inside Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

As the boy ran a hand through his new coif, his father, David Friend, also smiled.

"This is wonderful, really," said Friend, who works at Firestick Grill in the Tampa Bay Times Forum. "This is a big help for a single father trying to make ends meet. I have four kids, and the free haircuts really help."

Kelly Slade, one of the Great Clips haircutters, said she was surprised by the turnout.

"I had no idea what to expect," she said, adding that by the end of the day, she and her five colleagues would perform more than 100 haircuts. "But the kids have been really good. I thought maybe some of the younger ones might cry, but they have all been great."

Just before Jacob got his haircut, sister Samantha, 5, went under the clippers.

Friend said he left his 2-year-old twins, Paul and Alyssa, with a sitter.

"It would have been too much," he said, referring to the more than 70 vendors — ranging from After Hours Pediatrics to Verizon Wireless giving out coupons and samples.

In another part of Expo Hall, Imani Williams, 8, flew through the air, doing back flips on the bungee jump.

"That was really cool," she said afterward.

The girl, who lives in Lutz, is about to enter third grade at Calhoun Elementary School.

"I really love math," she said, adding that one day she wants to be a lawyer or a doctor.

While bouncing on the bungee was the highlight of her day, her mother, Bianca Brown, a math and social studies teacher at Van Buren Middle School, said she was "thrilled about the coupons and free school supplies" distributed by the vendors.

The Back To School Bash resumes today from noon until 4 p.m.

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