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Kids’ Fest draws thousands to city park

Kay Lynn Johnston, coordinator of the 10th edition of Kids’ Fest, said the activities at the White Hall City Park could best be measured by closing later than planned on Saturday because of the large crowd still present.

“It was wonderful,” Johnston said. “It was a bit chilly Friday, but we could not have asked for a prettier day on Saturday.

“You know it was successful when you have to tell people it is time to go home,” she added. “They didn’t want to go home.”

The festival kicked off at 6 p.m. Friday with a rock climbing wall, inflatable games, food vendors and Praise In The Park, with local praise and worship bands, drama teams and vocalists entertaining the crowd. A laser light show closed out the evening.

Saturday’s activities opened at 11 a.m. with White Hall’s young dancers, musical groups and singers performing. Free activities included a petting zoo, a miniature train ride through the park, inflatable games, the rock climbing wall, a cupcake decorating competition, art contest and a concert, scheduled to end at 4 p.m.

The art competition drew more than 230 entries, Johnson said, and youngsters decorated 375 cupcakes.

“The vendors were happy with the turnout,” Johnston added.

An estimated 4,000 children and parents attended Kids’ Fest, with a number of families bringing dogs on leashes as they toured the park’s paths and activities.

The Arkansas National Guard’s rock climbing wall drew crowds Friday and Saturday, with several observers noting that they were surprised that more girls than boys strapped on the gear to climb the wall.

“This is a perfect family activity with something for everyone,” said a woman who said she traveled from Sheridan to attend the event with her grandchildren.

Johnston said the only disappointment involved the carnival scheduled to set up rides deciding at the last minute to bypass Kids’ Fest for another venue.

Kids’ Fest was established to celebrate children and educate the community on child abuse awareness and prevention, as well as strengthen community and families, Johnston said. The activities were sponsored in part by The Transformation Project, White Hall Chamber of Commerce, Cranford’s Fresh World, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, Brookshire’s and Evergreen Packaging.

The Transformation Project is a non-profit organization based in White Hall offering after-school mentoring and tutoring programs, a substance abuse program, chemical-free housing, counseling, food pantry and several other community services.