Record crowd attends Alabaster’s third annual health fair

By WILLIAM MARLOW / Special to the Reporter

ALABASTER — On Saturday, Aug. 14, the city of Alabaster hosted its third annual health fair where attendees had the opportunity to engage with interactive health exhibits as well as learn about a variety of healthcare topics.

City Councilmember Stacy Rakestraw described this year’s exhibition as one of the city’s biggest to date, with more than 500 people and approximately 50 vendors present.

Topics ranged from addressing health misconceptions such as myths around vaccines to physical and mental health.

“The event offers so many people the ability to learn more about services that are right here in our own community,” she said. “There were so many great topics to just help caregivers and a lot of people that have been struggling with physical and mental health issues.”

This year’s fair was hosted in the Thompson High School basketball arena, which Rakestraw said provided additional space for visitors and vendors as well as ensured COVID-19 safety protocols were satisfied.

“It gave us plenty of room to socially distance because it was such a large venue. People were able to spread out, and we also had hand sanitizer everywhere. The gym was also completely cleaned before we set up,” she said.

Rakestraw said the fair, originally chartered in 2018, was initiated in order to provide free healthcare services to the public as well as to educate the community about health and wellness resources offered within Alabaster and Shelby County.

“Initially, we realized just how many medical professionals we had in our city, and that the healthcare industry is one of our largest employers,” she said. “So, we decided that we wanted to provide resources for people that live in Alabaster and surrounding cities so that they can have a convenient location to have great health services.”

At the event, free COVID-19 vaccinations were provided and over 100 Alabaster city school employees were also able to complete wellness screenings by Blair Pharmacy. The Alabaster Fire Department also offered blood pressure checks and installed car seats.

According to Rakestraw, there are more than 1,000 employees that comprise Alabaster’s healthcare sector, and 70 of those physicians were present at the fair.

Mental health was also a priority during this year’s fair due to the stresses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with self-care techniques and caregiver burnout being central themes. Rakestraw added that the event was especially informative as many residents had avoided hospitals and routine healthcare check-ups last year due to fears surrounding the pandemic.

“Last year, during COVID and the lockdowns, people were so afraid to get out that their overall health was ignored,” she said. “So the doctors expressed the importance of being cautious and safe during this time, but not neglecting your overall health and recommended keeping regular doctor’s appointments so that existing or new conditions don’t get out of hand.”

The event also provided an ample amount of lighthearted learning opportunities as well.  Among the fair’s most popular exhibits included life-size tours of various human body organs, such as models of the human brain and colon.

The DaVinci Machine, the latest technology in robotic-assisted surgery, was also on display and attendees were able to learn ways in which machinery is assisting doctors perform minimally invasive surgery.

“We had a doctor that specialized in areas at the event that could talk to the people and that was very helpful. I think that the Da Vinci robot was probably the most popular and interactive,” Rakestraw said.

The Alabama Symphony Youth Orchestra also performed, and tours were available for the Alabaster Fire Department’s vehicles, including a Pink Fire Truck, ambulance and a new Tower 19 Ladder Truck.

The Life Flight Helicopter also made an appearance as well.

Going forward, Rakestraw said she expects the health fair to become a staple tradition for the City of Alabaster.

“We work for months together on the event, generally starting in April, and this year definitely was the success we’ve seen with the health fair and we do plan to continue having it and just building upon it,” she said. “We have had a steady increase in participation every year and hopefully next year, we’ll be out of COVID and it’ll grow even bigger.”

Anyone who would like to learn more about the healthcare topics discussed during the fair may contact Rakestraw.