The brand-new Dodge Charger R/T in an eye-catching, fire-engine shade of red was “phenomenal” to drive, said Faith Jenkins, art teacher at Culpeper’s Floyd T. Binns Middle School

“It was so smooth, I couldn’t believe it!” Jenkins said, standing beside the vehicle. “It has all the bells and whistles, a back-up camera, power everything, you name it.”

Her test drive was part of Friday’s 49th annual Business, Industry and Education Day, organized by the Culpeper County Chamber of Commerce in coordination with Culpeper County Public Schools, and held at Eastern View High School.

A large portion of the 1,250 people employed by the school system attended the three-hour event, as teachers and staff visited about 100 Culpeper business and industry booths set up in the school’s entryway and cafeteria.

Chrysler of Culpeper owner Wade Schick brought an array of 15 shiny new cars and trucks to the school for school employees to test drive.

“We’ve done this six or seven years now, and it gets better every year,” Schick said. “We really enjoy teaming up with the school district to give back to the community.”

Schick donates $4,000 to the school whose employees take the most test drives during the chamber event.

“We have a little contest,” he said. “For the school that wins, we set up a day in the fall to come into their school and give them all lunch to say thank you.”

Superintendent Anthony Brads stood outside in front of the school Friday, chatting in the bright sunshine with Schick and school employees as they conducted test drives and entered the school to visit the booths inside.

“The school division has developed a great partnership with businesses in the community this way,” Brads said. “It’s valuable for everyone to provide a way, like this, to exchange information and services and share products and ideas.”

New teachers who are just getting acquainted with Culpeper find the event especially helpful, said Michelle Metzgar, the school division’s human resources director, who stood with Brads outside Eastern View.

“We have new employees move here every year, and this event is a great way for them to get to know and really become a part of this community,” Metzgar said. “Some of the businesses give out free memberships and other services so teachers can get integrated more quickly.”

At one of the first booths inside the front doors stood Sophie Hudson, owner of Kash Imprints, a Culpeper downtown business that screen-prints signs and banners. Hudson and others manning the booth were giving away free T-shirts to all those who stopped by.

“We’ve been coming to this event since 2007,” Hudson said. “We value and enjoy building relationships with the schools. We do a lot for them—spirit banners, all kinds of things.”

Employees who attended wandered from table to table in small clusters, with everyone wearing matching shirts representing the school where they work.

Two employees wearing gray polo shirts from Sycamore Park Elementary, Amy Elkins and Sandra Cave, said they come every year to the event, which is traditionally held just a few days before classes begin. The first day of school for the 2019-20 school year is Monday, Aug. 12.

“A lot of the booths have school supplies, which is great—we can always use more notebooks, rulers, all kinds of things like that,” said Elkins, who is a library clerk for Sycamore Park. “You just don’t realize how much there is in Culpeper until you come here and see all these businesses.”

Last year, Elkins said, she was able to meet a real-estate lender at the event, who started her on her journey to purchasing a new home.

“It’s amazing how many connections you can make, and all the great information that’s here,” she said.

Cave, who handles the elementary school’s in-school suspension program, said she has been able to get help with vision and dental needs for her family from connecting with businesses in previous years.

“You just never know what you’re going to find,” she said. “I try not to miss it.”

Culpeper Chamber President and CEO Wes Mayles said he was pleased with the turnout Friday, commenting that the chamber has been organizing the event for 49 years.

“We’ll do something big next year to celebrate the 50-year milestone,” he said. “It’s remarkable to have something like this happen for half a century.”

Mayles thanked this year’s signature sponsor, Partners 1st Federal Credit Union.

“They have really made the difference and should be recognized for their support of the educational system here in Culpeper,” he said.

Also, he added, the school division provide bagels and juice and other breakfast foods that school employees dined on while they traversed the displays.

“Culpeper is a great community, with businesses, nonprofits and everyone always working together to make it a better place to live for everyone,” Mayles said.