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The Food Bank of North Central Arkansas’ Bridge Bash event exceed its goals Saturday, collecting enough donations to provide more than 500,000 meals and packaging another 100,000 with the aid of a small army of volunteers on the campus of Arkansas State University-Mountain Home.

The Food Bank will be able to provide 551,243 meals through Bridge Bash’s fundraising efforts, Food Bank President Jeff Quick said late Saturday night. Nearly 600 volunteers pitched in to help prepare an additional 100,116 meals on Saturday, he said.

“We’re really pleased with how the day turned out,” Quick said. “We would like to thank our volunteers, sponsors and everyone else involved. We couldn’t have done any of this without their support.”

The event — which also featured live music, vendor booths, a kids’ zone, a car show and a disc golf tournament — enjoyed near-perfect weather all day long, with slightly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-to high 80s.

“We’re grateful to ASU-MH for letting us use their campus, and to the City of Mountain Home for their help in getting everything set up,” Quick said. “It made for a wonderful event.”

Thunderstorms pushed last year’s meal-packaging shifts and musical acts inside ASU-MH’s Vada Sheid Community Development Center and rained out a lot of the event’s other activities.

“We had a handful of vendors set up on the sidewalk in front of The Sheid, but that was about it,” Quick said of the rain-shortened 2018 Bridge Bash. “We’re thankful we had good weather this year and everyone could come out and enjoy the activities.”

The day’s busiest activity took place under a large orange-and-yellow tent, as groups of 150 volunteers at a time worked assembly-line style to assemble, seal and box up dehydrated meals to be given away by area nonprofits.

Volunteers gathered in four- or five-man teams, with each volunteer responsible for dropping one or more ingredients into a bag. The bagged meals were then carried to another group of volunteers, who sealed the bags and tossed them to a third group of volunteers who then boxed up the finished meals for transport.

The event featured four meal-packaging shifts Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Nashville recording artist Dan Smalley, the headlining musical act at this year’s Bridge Bash, actually made two appearances Saturday. The Shreveport, La., native and his stage crew volunteered at one of the afternoon meal-packaging shifts, and took the stage to perform for the crowd shortly after 6 p.m.

Saturday’s event was the ninth year for Bridge Bash, which has provided more than 4 million meals over the years to those in need.

What is the Food Bank?

The Food Bank covers a nine-county area across northern Arkansas. Its footprint runs from Boone and Marion counties in the west to Sharp County in the east and from the Missouri state line south down to Newton County.

The Food Bank does not directly distribute food items to individuals. It instead serves as a warehouse and supplier for area food baskets, soup kitchens, backpack programs and other nonprofits.

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