The sounds of steel drums could be heard in the air in downtown Elkin as the Foothills Arts Council held its 11th-annual KidsFest at the Arts Council building. From 11 to 2, parents and children came out for a day of art, food and summer fun.
Many arts and crafts stands operated by volunteers and members of the Interact clubs gave children a chance to create art. Kids got to make clay necklaces and let them dry in the sun or they could make a sun catcher to hang wherever they pleased.
Children got their faces painted and could even pick up the brush themselves to design whatever their hearts desired. Snow cones and hot dogs were sold for lunch. While a little delayed by heavy traffic on I-77, the Hickory Steel Pan Band produced a tropical vibe in the air, a fitting backdrop for the water slide which soon had a long line of kids waiting to cool off on a hot summer day.
“It’s just a free day of art and fun for kids,” said Eris Ball, volunteer with the Foothills Arts Council.
“I’ve had volunteers ask in the past ‘why don’t we do this in September?’ but by then school’s started and you have football season,” said event coordinator Erik Dahlager.
“This is the dead of summer when kids need something to do. We want kids to come and have fun and just enjoy being a kid for a day. Activities are geared toward that four- and five- to 11-year-old range. Once you hit junior high you start getting into that ‘too cool’ mentality. That’s where we bring in the high school students from the other side of the spectrum. They were here when they were kids enjoying themselves, now they’re coming back to actually help and volunteer.
The festival began 11 years ago when Dahlager use to race lawn mowers and held events to paint the mowers.
“Kids keep coming in; we’ve had anywhere from 75 kids to around 300 depending on the day,” said Dahlager. “Setup was good. It’s been hot and sweaty, but we have a good group of volunteers who came and set up, and we have the teenagers helping out with crafts and face painting.”
Many parents came out, from mothers spending quality time with their children to grandmothers who wanted to treat their little ones to something special.
“I have two granddaughters here today. A friend told me about the festival, and she brought her granddaughter out here,” said Susan Hege. “I think they like the water slide. That’s definitely the most popular attraction here. It’s a hot day, and I think they like to get cooled off. It just gets them out in the community to meet friends and shows what a great community we have.”
“I think it’s important because it gives them a chance to do different arts and crafts. This is my first time volunteering and it’s been pretty good,” said volunteer Cristina Nava.
One of the great things about the festival is the interaction of the community, bringing people together to forge an unforgettable event for the youth of the community.
“It not only gives them a chance to come and do art, but it also brings people around to see what’s going on with the Arts Council,” said Executive Director Leighanne Wright
“They come and see that we’ve got arts and performances and all kinds of stuff. It’s a great way to show off our beautiful house and garden. I love the Interact clubs and teams who come and help, honest to goodness. I just call them up and tell them I need some teams, and I’ve got eight or nine helping here with the arts and crafts. That’s one of the best parts, seeing them getting involved with the community.”
For some parents the festival is a great way for kids to get involved in the arts and carry on the traditions into the future.
“We’re growing future art lovers. These are the people who are going to keep art alive for the future,” said Dottie Jackson, mother of Knox Jackson.
“Leighanne will always be around here to instill the love of art into people and especially our children. I think that teaching them now to love art will help them appreciate it later and keep it growing in later generations. Knox loves art projects, and the festival does a great job with incorporating kids into our local art culture. We appreciate that, especially a free opportunity. The kids are able to do whatever they want to do, and they’re not being told what art is. They’re being allowed to explore and create and make their own art. Sometimes we are too controlling. This is not a color-within-the-lines event. Plus it’s better than just going to the park or to a movie. It’s something a little bit different.”
Many of the kids were having a blast at the festival.
“It’s a great day! I love the water slide,” said Knox Jackson.
Dahlager hopes that many of the children will take their experiences at the Kid’s Fest with them as they grow up.
“I hope someday when these kids grow up and they move away, they think, ‘Our little town doesn’t have anything for kids,’ so maybe they’ll continue on this tradition in other places,” said Dahlager. “I think it’s a day where a lot of kids will remember it for the rest of their lives. They’ll remember it year to year and will look forward to coming back to it.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.