Parking lots were packed and aisles crowded Saturday as shoppers with lists in hand searched for last minute items before Monday’s first day of school.

The need for patience was evident as students pleaded for thematic backpacks and lunch boxes while parents were more concerned with durability and price. Not all parents took advantage of the tax-free weekend for various reasons, most especially to avoid the expected multitudes of those seeking the few dollars to be saved. All voiced that if the recent proposal made by State Senator Rodney Ellis, and supported by Texas’ comptroller Susan Combs, is passed that school supplies be added to the already tax-free items, they would be more likely to shop during the tax-free weekend, which will become two weekends in 2008. Presently, only clothing and backpacks are exempt. Other states, such as New Mexico, have tax exempted school supplies up to $15. However, the State Comptroller estimates that Texas consumers’ savings this recent tax-free weekend were over $50 million.

Students were eager to share their thoughts for the upcoming year. Brooke Emory will enter the first grade at Stephenville Independent School District’s Chamberlin Elementary School. Her favorite subject is math and she had a big smile on her face when she said, “I feel really good about starting school. I have a good teacher and will enjoy everything.”

Her mother, Natasha Coleman, said there were just a few items left on her list. “What they are asking the kids to bring is a little much. Every student has to bring wipes and tissues. Wal-Mart’s roll back has helped. Their preplanning for a child’s $50 wardrobe has worked.”

Also returning to Chamberlin is second grader Cass Robinson. He looks forward to being in Mrs. Fritz’s class and climbing on the monkey bars this year. His mother, Danna, said that she skipped the tax-free day, but the crowds on Saturday were not much better. She also questioned some of the items on her list and believes the state should furnish more of the supplies. Yes, she will be glad for school to begin for her second grader.

Amanda and Dominique Moreno traveled from DeLeon. Amanda, a 10th grader, delayed her shopping until Meet the Teacher Day on Friday. Her goal is to pass everything since she realizes this year will be more difficult than last. She is involved in band and one act play, so UIL will be a big challenge. She looks forward to meeting her new principal and a new coach. Sister Dominique is excited about 2nd grade.

“I’ll have to study harder, but I can do it,” Dominique said. “I know all the kids.”

She looks forward to playing baseball this year. Their mother, Paula, said that the supplies tax exemption would be beneficial since she has two school-aged children and wonders if some of the items required such as plastic bags and three boxes of tissue per student would be included.

Another family of out-of-towners were Misty Colwell and her children from Comanche. Greg will attend ninth grade at Comanche Paradigm. He is glad to finally begin high school and wants to improve all of his grades. Deanna will be moving on up to the sixth grade with all of her friends.

“I am ready for school. I enjoy art and especially like sports,” she said.

Mrs. Colwell said they were doing some last minute clothes shopping.

“Tax-free weekend wasn’t convenient for us because it didn’t coincide with pay schedules,” she said, adding that she budgets about $150 for the two children’s school wardrobes.

Grace Sitton and her two daughters drove from Cisco to shop in Stephenville because after living in the city for a time, she is more familiar with the stores and where the bargains can be found. She normally spends about $100 on school supplies, and the family budgets approximately $300 for clothes and shoes. Ronell Sitton is excited about becoming a second grader.

“I’ll be in a different classroom with different friends, but I make friends easily,” she said.

Merchants said they are pleased that their shelves were so thoroughly stocked for this year’s onslaught of shoppers and feel that the tax-free weekend was beneficial to them, as well as consumers.

Bealls manager Mark Smith said all three days were good — and the last minute shopping days were almost as brisk.

As the first day of the 2007-2008 school year becomes a reality, students will show off new clothes, visit with friends, and might possess that usually non-existent pen or pencil ready for note taking. Teachers appreciate that.