NEW CANAAN — The streets of New Canaan were crowded on Oct. 7 as students, parents, siblings, teachers and even dogs took to the street as part of South School’s Walk to School Day.

Although National Walk to School Day was on Oct. 5, South School participated on a Friday so parents could more easily take time off from work to see their kids off to school, said South School Principal Joanne Rocco.

“We want it to be a community event,” Rocco said. “It really is a huge participation every single time. We’re looking for 100 percent participation.”

Walk to School Day began in New Canaan in May 2008. South School is one of the only schools in the town that participates, due to its location near several stretches of sidewalk. The school holds two Walk to School Days each year, one in May and one in October, near National Walk to School Day. According to Rocco, up to 95 percent of the school’s 500 students take part in the day.

“We see parents, dads walking in suits, babies in strollers and grandparents,” Rocco said. “When you think of 500 students walking, some walk with two people — that’s 1,500 to 2,000 people walking.”

South School also turned the day into a school spirit day. Students wore their South School gear or clothes in the school colors of blue and white. Teachers stood outside the building and greet them as they walk in with foam paws (for the school mascot, South Paw), thunder sticks and even costumes and blue wigs.

Also present were members of the New Canaan Police Department, Parks Department, Highway Department and Community Emergency Response Team. Members of these departments ensured the students got safely to school.

“It really gives us a sense of security,” Rocco said.

The extra help was appreciated as more students participated in Walk to School Day this year. Rocco said some parents who live too far away to walk drive closer to the school and walk over after parking nearby. She also said more students began walking to school regularly since they started the event. This year, the school has about 30-40 students who walk each day.

“I think it has encouraged more families to walk to school,” she said.

The Walk to School Day also encourages a healthy lifestyle and less pollution. Furthermore, Rocco said it reduces traffic in the area, but most importantly, it helps with school spirit at South.

“I think it helps to increase a sense of community,” she said. “It’s gotten bigger and bigger every year.”

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata