By LeRae Haynes –
When it comes to celebrating children in a beautiful green space, no one does it better than Women’s Contact Society at the Children’s Festival in Boitanio Park. For more than 20 years the event, known first as the Teddy Bear Picnic, continues to attract and delight youngsters and families, with more than 1,000 people attending the event.
Over 30 vendors are on site with information about services available to children and families. This event brings service providers, business owners, and community clubs together showcasing their organizations and engaging children and families with exciting activities throughout the park.
The event is open to everyone and anyone can sign up to have a booth as long as they provide an activity for children and are not selling anything (excluding food vendors), as this is s free event.
Renowned magician and popular performer Clinton. W. Grey is coming to the Children’s Fest, with a lively, interactive show guaranteed to thoroughly delight and entertain the crowd. With family ties to the community, he has done the Children’s Fest on and off since he was a teen in the late 1980s.
He has returned to Williams Lake many times to do venues for both adults and kids, and last summer he did the Children’s Fest in Boitanio Park six weeks before the wildfires broke out.
He said when doing magic for kids, he wants to surprise and fool them—not just play with them. “Kids are far more honest than an adult audience,” he explained. “Even if adults know how you did a trick, they’ll applaud and enjoy.
“A kid will holler right out and call you on it, and you can play off that. If I want them to see me sneak something out, I want them to catch me,” he continued. “Then I can make a continuing routine, and when I do pull the rug out from underneath them, it’s that much stronger.”
He got his start in comedy, performing at around 12 years of age. “I worked a comedy club in Williams Lake doing five to eight minutes of prop comedy every Friday and Saturday on stage, opening or pros coming to town,” he noted.
“At one point I opened for a comedy magician, which turned things around for me, and I switched over,” he said. “That turned into putting snippets in a row, and now you have a show.”
His own son, Dylan, is five years old, and has grown up in a household knowing how magic works.
Dylan plays with the kids of other magicians and has been backstage at many, many shows. “These kids don’t see magic like other kids do,” said Grey. “Dylan likes to watch my show, and sometimes he’s been set up as a random kid in the crowd—set up or a great trick.
“He still likes the entertainment value of a magic act.”
One young family really looking forward to the green space glory of the Children’s Festival is Michelle Iverson and her two young daughters, Ella and Paige.
Ella is four years old, and this will be her fourth time at the festival. Paige, who was born just before the wildfires broke out last summer, will enjoy the event for the very first time.
“My very favourite thing is seeing everybody else – friends and the community – enjoying the free space,” said Iverson. “It’s a great social event for moms; I love seeing the other moms.
“The kids can run up and down the hills and roll in the grass: it’s so relaxing.”
Having the festival in nature is a huge plus. “My kids love being outdoors; we’re really looking forward to playing in the park,” she explained.
“Last summer was very restrictive for us, with the fires and smoke. We spent a good part of the summer in Edmonton, and the smoke was bad there too. We were inside too much. I had a toddler who loves to be outdoors and a brand-new baby. We finally came home, knowing we were facing more inside time because of the smoke.
“We decided to take a week’s vacation in Bella Bella, which is on the ocean. The smoke was much better.”
They managed to get a permit to drive through the Chilcotin heading out, but on the way home, the fires had moved. There was an evacuation order, and no children were allowed to travel the roads. Stuck in Nimpo Lake, they rented a float plane and Iverson and her two little ones were flown to Punzti Lake, which was abandoned because of the fires.
Her firefighter husband could drive the Chilcotin with a permit, and drove to Puntzi Lake, found his little family waiting on a dock, and they all came home together.
“Looking back, it wasn’t as bad as it felt at the time,” Iverson added. “It was a hard adjustment telling Ella she couldn’t go outside to play.
“We did it, though; we made it and we’re stronger for it. We’re very much looking forward to the Children’s Festival,” she said. “Be outside, play, and enjoy seeing everyone else doing the same.”
The Children’s Festival will take place on Sunday, May 27 in Boitanio Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.