Written by Karyn Powers
Saturday, April 8, 2017 marks the return of the annual Children’s Festival at East Gate Hall in Marathon Park.
For 44 years, this FREE community event has engaged children and adults in discovery and exploration, creativity and community. It couldn’t happen without the commitment of our area service clubs, volunteers, county departments, and a wide variety of agencies that focus on making our community stronger through service to families and children.
Did you know that the festival began as an early childhood development class project at the University of Wisconsin–Marathon County (UWMC) in 1973?
The class project soon outgrew its classroom and then the school’s gymnasium and finally blossomed into a community-wide event at Wausau West High School’s fieldhouse, before making its permanent home in Marathon Park’s East Gate Hall. Along the way, a variety of arts and crafts, music and dance, health screenings, and games were made available to thousands of participants.
Across four decades, organizations such as the following have anchored 6 of the 20 stations available for kids:
- Marathon County Public Library
- Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum
- Wausau Noon Optimists
- Wausau Breakfast Optimists,
- Kiwanis Club of Greater Wausau
- Wausau and Marathon County Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department
From year to year, the remaining 14 activity booths have included childcare centers, therapy dogs, 4H ambassadors, and health, education, and medical professionals.
More recently, the Marathon County Early Years Coalition has become a regular, as has the Altrusa Club, whose members offer FREE festival-day tours of the Little Red School House Museum just around the corner from East Gate Hall.
One of the favorite features of the event is the Wausau Noon Optimists Woodworking Room, housed in the Stone Wing off the main floor of the hall. Imagine 20–30 kids at a time — with safety goggles, hammers, and nails — all sitting around a Volkswagen Beetle–sized pile of mix-and-match lengths of lumber, pounding away while parents supervise and/or “help.”
Another popular spot is the Food Court, home to The Neighbors’ Place staff who put on a simple, kid-friendly luncheon spread at great prices. Families can expect hot dogs and chips, cookies and milk, PBJ sandwiches, and a few new surprises.
One special opportunity — and the only booth allowed to sell items outside of the food court — is the Safe Kids–Wausau Area booth. Here, parents will find children’s bike helmets for only $7. Safe Kids also has information on car seat safety and locations where parents can drop off old car seats or car seats that have been involved in an accident.
This year is promising to be another great one…
As always, the festival Entrance has a special detour just for kids: A small room off the main entrance will be an explosion of color, light, and textures. Thanks to the creativity and imagination of our Recreation Intern, Cedric Lechlietner, children will be treated to a space where they can create and play on their way to the main floor. (And, of course, there will be glitter!)
So, mark your calendar for Saturday, April 8, and bring your kids — and your IMAGINATION — to the 44th Annual Children’s Festival at Marathon Park from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
We hope to see you there!
Recreation Superintendent | Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department
Karyn Powers joined the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department in 1991. Prior to settling in Marathon County, she spent 5 years working for the Department of Defense in Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Services for the U.S. Navy in Iceland and the U.S. Army in South Korea. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Park and Recreation Administration and a master’s degree in Education. In addition to being the city/county Recreation Superintendent, she is a published poet and author. Karyn fell in love with Marathon County as a college senior when she interned here in 1979, then traveled halfway around the world to get back here as soon as was possible. Email Karyn Powers
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