The Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) is once again sending out the call for exhibitors and vendors for the 2021 Car and Motorcycle Show. This is KCSO’s biggest fundraiser for the D.A.R.E. program, which was sidelined last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The event is scheduled for Saturday, May 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Knoxville Expo Center on Clinton Highway.
Sheriff Tom Spangler pulled officer Sheila Palmer off the retirement bench to rejuvenate the D.A.R.E. program in Knox County Schools after it had been shelved by the prior administration. The program officially re-launched in 2019, and Palmer is currently training other officers to fill her shoes once she returns to retirement.
“At the last show in 2019, we had over 200 participants,” Palmer said. “We would really like to get 250 this year, especially after having to cancel last year. It’s a really popular event.”
In addition to the vehicles displayed, there will be food trucks and other vendors, music and door prizes. There will also be a Medic bus on site for blood donations. There will be “goodie” bags for all exhibitors and vendors. Social distancing and mask wearing will be encouraged but not required (masks will be available on site).
Palmer said the D.A.R.E. program focuses on fifth graders and seventh graders.
“The goal is to catch them before they get into middle school,” she said. “Studies show that’s when kids tend to have their first experiences with drugs and alcohol, in middle school. So, we get to them first before middle school, and again before they’re heading to high school.”
Palmer was previously a D.A.R.E. officer before retirement, and said it’s rewarding to run into former students who recognize her.
“They still remember, and that’s important. It’s about building that rapport, getting them to think twice before they do something they shouldn’t.”
Palmer added that the program has been retooled a bit to get students discussing the importance of staying away from drugs and the culture of drug use.
“This gets kids talking to each other, so they’re hearing it from their peers,” she said. “It lands a bit different when it’s coming from their friends, discussing it instead of just being lectured by an adult. D.A.R.E. is still the best program out there. If there’s a better one, I’d like to see it.”
Beth Kinnane is community editor for KnoxTNToday.com