In its 20th year, Kids Fest will continue to have features that families expect, including the petting zoo, bicycle rodeo and a variety of other free activities.

But to celebrate the milestone of the annual event, a couple of new activities are planned.

For one, the Leadership Jackson County community growth and awareness project team will have Touch a Truck set up in the northwest corner of the Seymour High School parking lot. A firetruck, a police car and a snowplow will be among the nearly 15 large vehicles available for children to explore.

Also, the new Caring 4 Kids Council will conduct a ceremony to bring awareness to April being National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Teens for Change, a group organized through Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, will share statistics about child abuse and neglect in Jackson County and what can be done to help lower the numbers. Children also will be have an opportunity to place a pinwheel on the front lawn of the school.

Story continues below gallery

“We were trying to find ways to make this year stand out and just add to the excitement and add to the greatness of this event,” said Kate Garrity, a member of the Leadership Jackson County project team and executive director of Child Care Network, which sponsors Kids Fest along with the Seymour Noon Lions Club.

Garrity said nearly 50 booths will be set up inside the Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Booth rental is free, and reservations will be accepted through Friday. There also is no admission charge to the event.

Everything is free thanks to the generosity of several local sponsors, and Garrity said it has been that way since a Leadership Jackson County project team created Kids Fest 20 years ago.

At first, Garrity said the community growth and awareness team thought adding Touch a Truck would be too much because there’s already a lot going on at Kids Fest.

“But then the more we thought about it, we’re like, ‘Captive audience, this is a great time to just put it out there,'” she said. “We thought it would be a lot harder to try to get a standalone event, especially trying to get it done before the end of the school year and things like that.”

Team members Garrity, Rachel Hoevener, Greg Morin, Bonita Dobbs and Conner Barnette then began making calls to local agencies to see which ones would be willing to participate.

The other vehicles will include a semitrailer, a school bus, the Jackson County Public Library’s Discovery bus and machinery from the Seymour Water Pollution Control Facility and Jackson County Highway Department.

The Indiana Department of Transportation also is bringing a small tow plow for children to paint.

Garrity said her children’s first experience with firetrucks was when their house caught fire, so it was a scary situation for them. Touch a Truck will allow for positive interaction with the emergency vehicles and other large machinery.

“It will just be fun for all ages to get some experience with these community helpers,” she said.

Dobbs said it will be good for children to interact with the people who operate the vehicles.

“We also feel this could be beneficial for older children in helping to gain information on a potential career, as they can speak with a wide variety of professionals during the event,” she said.

Barnette said the team is excited to bring a hands-on learning opportunity to local youth because for some, it may be a new experience.

“This event is one that I believe will be fairly easy to carry on for a group or organization moving forward and hope we are laying the groundwork for future kids of Jackson County to be able to experience as it expands for years to come,” he said.

The Caring 4 Kids Council’s ceremony will be at 12:30 p.m. on the high school’s front lawn. The council, which formed at the beginning of the year, consists of adults who advocate for children’s safety and well-being.

Garrity said as of February 2017, there are 205 active cases of child abuse and neglect in Jackson County and 23,282 in Indiana.

School officials gave permission for Kids Fest attendees to plant 1,000 pinwheels on the high school’s lawn. Those will remain there for a week or two to bring awareness to child abuse and neglect.

“Again, it’s a captive audience, and we’re just trying to spread that word as much as we can,” Garrity said.

Inside the gym, there will be a drawing for two half scholarships to one of Child Care Network’s preschools. The grand prize drawing will be for a summer pass to Shields Park Pool.

This year’s theme for Kids Fest is “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Kids Fest.” Each year, seventh-graders involved in Leadership Jackson County’s youth program, YoJack, choose the theme.

Again this year, a T-shirt design contest going along with the theme was conducted. Of the 82 entries submitted from elementary students around the county, the Kids Fest committee chose the design of 11-year-old Kaylee Phillips, a student at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School in Seymour.

On Saturday, she will get to ride to Kids Fest on a firetruck with Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman. She will be recognized after Luedeman makes a proclamation.

This is Garrity’s second time helping organize Kids Fest since she was named executive director of Child Care Network in the fall of 2015.

She said she is amazed by how people around the county come together to make it a great free event. It’s estimated to draw around 1,400 people.

“Myself having four kids, things add up when you take your kids places, and it’s wonderful to find a truly free event,” she said. “That is nice as a parent to be able to go and have fun and not have to worry about things adding up. The committee is very dedicated to keeping it free.”

If you go

What: 20th annual Kids Fest, sponsored by Child Care Network and Seymour Noon Lions Club

When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Seymour High School campus along Community Drive in Seymour

Features: Games, activities, bicycle rodeo, petting zoo, model train display and more; two new events this year are Touch a Truck in the northwest corner of the school’s parking lot, and there will be a ceremony to bring awareness to National Child Abuse Prevention Month at 12:30 p.m. on the school’s front lawn

Cost: Free

Information: 812-524-2585 or search for Kids Fest on Facebook

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.