Early Childhood Coalition prepares for annual Children’s Festival | CraigDailyPress.com

Early Childhood Coalition prepares for annual Children’s Festival

This year's festival is slated for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at Centennial Mall

Michael Neary

Craig Fire/Rescue entertains kids with a puppet show at the 2015 Children's Festival at Centennial Mall in Craig. The event will be held again on Saturday at the mall, with the Craig Fire/Rescue team slated as one of the featured entertainers.

— Tanya Ferguson described the upcoming 2016 Children's Festival as looking a little like a craft fair, but then she added: "Everything is in bright, crazy colors, so it's definitely about early childhood."

The free festival, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday in Centennial Mall, is designed to let people know about a sprawling range of services available for young children, including preschool applications. Dozens of area organizations are scheduled to set up booths — and in some cases entertainment — as they participate.

Ferguson chairs the area's Early Childhood Coalition, which is coordinating the annual event.

"It's a way to get parents information on upcoming events for kids through the summer," she said. "It's also just a free activity for families to do with kiddos under the age of 8."

Ferguson noted a number of services that area agencies will provide, as well. The Colorado State Patrol, for instance, is scheduled to do car seat safety checks, and Grand Futures is slated to conduct medication drop-offs.

"If you have a prescription drug you need to rid of, instead of throwing it in the toilet you can bring it to the drop box that day," she said.

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Ferguson said she expected that representatives from Craig Fire Rescue would also be present for the festival.

"Last year they did the best puppet shows ever," she said.

The timing of the festival is appropriate: Ferguson noted that April is the Month of the Young Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Judi Holland, early childhood education program director at Colorado Northwestern Community College, said the festival can serve as a strong source of information for families — information that, to someone who works in the field, may seem self-evident.

"We're so aware of everything, so sometimes it's hard for us to know exactly what a family's missing," she said, during a meeting of the area's Early Childhood Coalition. "That's one reason Connections 4 Kids opened up the Parent Education Center."

Coalition members stressed that the festival is for families — and that all children should be accompanied. Mary Ginther, a preschool teacher at East Elementary School, said the festival helps to bring together the worlds of home, or family, and school.

"I think it kind of cements that teacher-to-home feeling," Ginther said. "So your kids do way better if teachers and parents are on the same page. (The students) are always real excited to see you out in public, too."

Ferguson described the way the event can be particularly helpful to new parents in the community.

"As a parent when I first moved to Craig and this was an event, I had no idea what the (Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association) was and that I could go to the VNA and get my kids immunized," she said. "It was nice to know that they have those shot clinics."

Ferguson said many of the families who come already know a good deal about the services and activities that are out there for children. But some don't.

"It's nice for them to come in and say, 'I didn't realize that a 3-year-old could do the reading program at the library,' or 'I (didn't know) there were speech services at Horizons…,'" she said.

Families can also get preschool information from Head Start, Eagle's Nest and the Moffat County School District.

As for the entertainment, Ferguson said there's likely to be a beanbag toss, along with popcorn and balloons. And she said there may be a wild card or two tucked into the day's events, as well.

"Somebody always comes with something different," she said.