From the boy who caught his first fish ever to those who dared to tackle the climbing wall, Riverside Park offered something for everyone.
This was accomplished Saturday through Kidsfest, an annual event of Mount Airy Parks and Recreation designed to get families out of the house and into the Great Outdoors. And despite windy and chilly conditions uncharacteristic for May, there was simply no excuse not to be there where variety was concerned.
Along with the previously mentioned fishing in the Ararat River that meanders alongside Riverside Park (with poles furnished to those without them) and the climbing wall, the event that began in 2010 as “Kids Unplugged” also featured a bike rodeo. It was operated by the Mount Airy Police Department.
Then there was Zumba dancing with music by a DJ, a bounce house and slide, games of skill, a facepainting booth, city fire department demonstrations involving its ladder truck and even free tomato plants — while they lasted.
“We’ve been probably the last three years,” said regular Kidsfest attendee Alejandra McComb of Mount Airy, who came Saturday with her three children ages 8, 4 and 2.
“We like the activities,” McComb explained. “We come to the park all the time, so it’s nice to have some different stuff for them (children) to play with — and you see friends here, too.”
McComb had just watched her daughter Meredith, 4, achieve a milestone of sorts.
“This is the first time she has done the bike rodeo,” the mom said of a course arranged on old tennis courts at Riverside Park where youths negotiated a series of orange cones designed to test their skills on different setups.
“It was fun to see her do the winding one.”
Weather aids fishing
McComb said she did wait about an hour after the starting time before coming to the park Saturday for the event scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., because of the wind and chilly temperatures.
“Actually, for fishing it’s great weather,” city Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander said.
That proved to be true for folks of all ages who lined the banks of the Ararat Saturday, including Gretta Pack of Mount Airy, who was there with her three children, ages 10, 7 and 4 — one of whom made a special memory.
“He caught his first fish here today,” Pack said of her son Madden, 7, who hauled in a large brown trout.
“We come every year,” she added regarding Kidsfest. “We’re just excited to get out and about and do all the activities — just to get outside.”
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission helped with Saturday’s fishing component along with Stone Mountain Chapter 321 of Trout Unlimited.
Among other organizations involved with Kidsfest, according to Alexander, were Mount Airy Museum of Regional History; the Reeves Community Center Foundation, which sponsored the climbing wall and the bounce house/slide; the Boy Scouts; a North Surry High School group that gave away the tomato plants; and the Mount Airy Woman’s Club and a local swim team, which provided items including drinks.
The various participants operated from stations set up throughout Riverside Park.
Alexander said Saturday’s weather could be viewed as a blessing in disguise.
“It’s not quite as hot and crowded,” she said in comparison to previous years.
Yet attendance was still healthy for the event that attracted about 800 people in 2016.
“Every station has been pretty full,” the parks and recreation director said.
“I think it’s wonderful — we’ve had a lot of turnover with people coming and going (and) we’ve seen a lot of these families every year,” Alexander continued, calling Kidsfest “a great way to highlight the park.”
“They do a really good job with this,” McComb, the local mom, said of Kidsfest organizers.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.