If you spend any time around school children, you might have noticed the thin colored rubber bands that they wear on their wrists.
They are called Silly Bandz, and kids don't just wear them – they sort them, they trade them, they organize them – and their moms hunt for them.
"You have them," Laurie Storino said with the sound of relief in her voice as she walked into Down on Main Street one recent afternoon.
Storino had driven to the Newtown store from her home in Trumbull after failing to find Silly Bandz at other locations rumored to stock them, including Wal-Mart and the Justice and Hallmark stores at the mall. With her search now over, she immediately picked out several packs for her three daughters, aged 13, 9, and 5.
The bracelets are most popular in the middle school, but kids from 6 to 18-years-old are all in on the Silly Bandz fad, according to retailers. Certain collections, such as the newer Fantasy or Rock Bandz packs, sell out quickly.
The fad has proven so popular that administrators at one elementary school have banned the bracelets.
Principal Donna Pagé and Barbara Gasparine of Sandy Hook elementary school sent home a letter dated April 9 calling the Silly Bandz a "blossoming fad" and saying that the trading and wearing of the bracelets was "distracting students from learning as well as causing behavior problems." Effective immediately, the bracelets are banned from that school.
At Reed Intermediate School, students Amanda Donovan, 11, Katie Elkins, 10, and Danielle Scarpa, 12 have joined the craze. Their excitement is evident as they breathlessly try to explain the bracelets' popularity: "They are cool; there are different animals and categories; even guys have them; sometimes they go all the way up to people's elbows; they are really fun; everyone likes them."
Wearing the bands in their favorite colors or interests is fun, but for these intermediate school girls it is all about the trading. Students bring extras from home or take one off their arm to exchange for a band in a different color or style.
Most trading is done at lunchtime, but two girls did get in trouble because they were doing it in class, Danielle said.
Alex Scarpa, 17, a student at Newtown High School, said the fad has taken hold in a more understated way with older teens.
"My friends just wear one or two," she said. "Usually it's an animal that they like or something."
Back at as store clerk Sue Bucur rang up Storino's order, she noticed the Fantasy pack.
"I thought we were out of these," said Bucur, who plans on sending some to her niece in Virginia. "I've been here all day. I can't believe I missed them."
Store owner Larry Schneider said he has sold hundreds of packs in three days. A shipment that arrived one Tuesday was expected to last through the weekend, but he predicted they would be sold out by Thursday.
"I'm glad you had them," Storino said. "You just can't find them."