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Kidsfest returns on Saturday

For four hours Saturday, Mid-Missouri children will be the center of attention in downtown Jefferson City.

Kidsfest is returning, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

“Kidsfest is a way to celebrate kids and family, and it’s a great way to kick off the summer,” said Phil Stiles, director of the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry department’s Recreation, Facilities and Special Services division.

“This year, we have right at 60 vendors/booths, and some of them are participating for the first time,” he added. “A lot of these booths are kid- and family-friendly, and they’re promoting activities that kids can do throughout the summer — and throughout the year.”

KRCG-TV sponsored the first Kidsfest more than a quarter century ago, and the Parks and Recreation department later joined as a co-sponsor.

It’s initial focus was entertainment — and child safety.

“Obviously, the safety aspect and the education aspect are important,” Stiles said. “We will have, on hand, the Jefferson City Fire Department and the Jefferson City Police Department, as well as the Optimists Club, and they’ll be talking to kids about safety.”

But there will be entertainment, as well.

“There will be two bounce houses,” he said. “We’ll also be offering hayrides.

“The big highlight is, always, the petting zoo, which is down on the Library lawn — and new this year, we will be offering pony rides for a nominal fee. We’ll have a tennis court set up on Madison Street.”

Face-painting will be available, and artist Jim Dyke will be doing caricatures in front of his store, Cottonstone Gallery.

Magician and juggler Gerry Tritz will be performing at various locations.

Stiles said it’s been growing in popularity since the beginning.

“The event started at the mall, then moved to the fairgrounds and then moved to the ice arena,” he said. “Then we outgrew the ice arena.

“The Downtown Association was interested in partnering up with us — and, so, it’s been downtown, I think, for seven years.”

This year’s event will spread out along High Street, from Jefferson to Adams, closing those three blocks of High and closing Madison and Monroe streets between McCarty Street and East Capitol Avenue.

Stiles said access to the city’s parking garage will be from East Capitol.

He said organizers never are sure how many will come.

“In years past, we’ve estimated the crowd size at between 4,000 and 5,000,” Stiles said. “It all is weather-dependent, and this Saturday looks like it’s going to be good weather, so we’re anticipating a good crowd.”

The National Weather Service predicts a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms Saturday, but, otherwise, partly sunny conditions and a high near 84.

“We have to play everything by ear,” Stiles said, noting by 2 p.m. they begin packing up their booths and clearing out, so they can reopen the streets to traffic.

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