Centennial Mall was filled Saturday with parents and youths picking up candy and literature at various booths as part of the Celebrate Children Festival.
The festival, which was sponsored by the Moffat County Early Childhood Coalition, is part of Month of the Young Child.
Throughout April, which is the national month of the young child, the local Month of the Young Child Committee has been raising awareness about children ages 2 to 8, and the care they need.
Month of the Young Child Committee chair Rosie Crosthwaite said the festival helped parents better understand the needs of their children.
"All April, we've been bringing attention to young children and the needs of kids under 8," Crosthwaite said. "We're making an effort to keep kids out in front. Children are the most important people in a family."
Judi Whilden, Sunrise Kids Preschool and Childcare LLC director, helped organize and plan the festival.
But, she didn't plan on seeing the turnout.
"Form the beginning, it's been this busy," Whilden said Saturday morning. "And we're not just pleased to see all of these people here, but we're happy that so many organizations came and set up booths.
"I think a lot of people are coming here before they go out and do their Easter stuff, but this is wonderful."
Krista Schenck, a high school teacher, was one of those people.
Schenck came with her two daughters Trinity, 7, and Caroline, 3, for some fun and education before going Easter egg hunting in the afternoon.
"I think it's a really cute idea," Schenck said. "You have to be pleased - there are a lot of booths and a lot of people."
Schenck helped run a life-sized version of the board game Candy Land, and was passing out candy to participants.
When she had a moment to step away from the game board, she took her daughters around to see the other booths.
"We've tried just about everything," she said, holding up a bag full of brochures and pamphlets as her daughters made paper-plate masks.
"They're absolutely having fun," she added. "Arts and crafts are big in my family."
Whilden, who serves on the coalition, said the festival was the organization's largest event of the year.
"Everything's free, and the parents and children can explore a little bit," she said. "The kids get to have some fun, and the parents come away with some information. Any questions they might have can be answered here."
Sarah Hepworth, Early Childhood Services director for the Moffat County School District, was found passing out bags of carnival-style popcorn and brochures on preschool.
She said the festival usually draws a big crowd, and she was pleased with the turnout.
"This is about the average number of booths we normally have," Hepworth said. "We have 16 organizations with booths, and we're aiming for 20 next year."
Booths ranged from the Boys & Girls Club of Craig to the Craig Police Department, and each one offered different activities and handouts for children and adults.
Hepworth said the increased turnout could be because there was not a festival last year.
"This is the sixth year the coalition has put on this event, but the first time in two years," she said. "All the agencies who help organize the event have been too busy the last couple of years. And I think a lot of people missed it, so we're glad it's back."
Hepworth said the goal of the festival was to present information to children and parents in a variety of ways.
"Kids can't advocate for themselves - how could a 3-year-old say what he needs?" Hepworth said. "They can't say they need to get immunizations or a yearly check-up. We're hoping that by having this fair, we'll get parents connected to the organizations they need."
Cindy Bowles, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association assistant for the immunization program, said even though shots were being offered, there were few takers.
"I don't know if someone would like a shot today - it's a fun day and then, it's Easter," she said. "But, we've been scheduling lots of kids for immunizations."
The VNA was offering free immunization shots for everything from polio to measles.
"We offer the shots kids need before going in to kindergarten, and information for their parents," she said. "We've also been passing out pages that tell kids to wash their hands that they can color on."
Having the parents and children go through the activities together was important, Crosthwaite said.
"And this way parents get to do something with their kids," she said.
Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org.