Riverside Park is a busy place on a normal day, with its new playground, a skateboard park, a greenway and other facilities — but fun was taken to a whole new level there during a weekend event.
The park on Riverside Drive in Mount Airy was a beehive of activities Saturday as hundreds of people gathered for the ninth-annual Kidsfest, which was designed to lure children and families out of the house to enjoy some time together.
That was accomplished through about 20 different stations set up for the free event which occupied nearly every square foot of the grounds for its scheduled four-hour time frame. These offered fishing from the banks of the Ararat River, a bike rodeo, Frisbee golf, trampolines, face painting, bounce house-type inflatables, various lawn games, upbeat tunes provided by a DJ and more.
Children also could pot a tomato plant to take home and had the chance to see Army equipment and a fire truck up close during Kidsfest. It was organized by Mount Airy Parks and Recreation with support from the Reeves Community Center Foundation and corporate sponsors.
The combined package was tailor-made for folks such as Angie Cagle, a mom from Cana, Virginia, who attends Kidsfest every year.
“It’s just family oriented, has lots of activities and gets kids outside,” Cagle said as her daughter Lenzi, 6, a student at Tharrington Primary School, proudly held a tomato plant.
“All we’ll have tomatoes all summer,” the local parent added of another Kidsfest benefit.
“A lot of the mothers have said it gets really tall,” North Surry High School sophomore Regan Richardson agreed soon after from a spot elsewhere on the grounds where such a tomato plant could be secured.
“The kids get to learn how to raise a plant,” said the student, a member of her school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter. It grows the plants at North Surry which are then donated for Kidsfest, and hopefully instills within participants an appreciation for agriculture and producing one’s own food.
Developing new and useful skills also can be considered a goal of the fishing aspect of Kidsfest, which offered the free use of poles supplied by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
“The fishing is a big hit,” said Family Services Supervisor Fonda Branch of Mount Airy Parks and Recreation, who coordinates Kidsfest activities.
“It gives them an experience they maybe don’t get to do very often,” Branch said of participants.
As she spoke, small groups of anglers of all ages lined the banks of the Ararat, a popular trout-fishing venue.
Kurtis Kauffman, 16, was among those with a hook in the water.
While he obviously was enjoying fishing, the youth said he was having a good time overall.
“I love everything,” he said of the various Kidsfest activities. “You get to get out here and hang out with people you don’t know.”
Kurtis was attending with a family group of nine people who were experiencing Kidsfest for the first time.
“We just moved down here from Michigan,” his stepdad, Matt Hammond, explained.
While rain loomed as a threat Saturday, Kidsfest wound up dampened by nary a drop right up to the time it concluded early Saturday afternoon.
“It’s a great turnout,” Branch said while surveying the crowds filling Riverside Park.
“And the kids are having a blast.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.