From roller skating to Dance Dance Revolution Mario, kids had a plethora of entertainment options at the fairgrounds on Saturday, but Echo Pearson whiled away her time at the petting zoo.
Sporting a tiger's whiskers, nose and stripes, the 8-year-old cradled a brown rabbit close to her chest and begged her mother, Amber Harrah, to allow her to stay when her brothers clamored to move on.
"Sissy doesn't want to let go of the bunnies," Harrah said to one brother.
Numerous families visited the 13th annual Youth and Family Fair, which coincided with Child Abuse Prevention Month and Earth Day. Outside, the Child Abuse Prevention Council's flag, raised earlier this month, fluttered in the breeze. And employees of the Del Norte Solid Waste Management Authority and Recology taught kids and their parents how and why they should recycle.
For years the Solid Waste Authority held a separate event at the Crescent City Cultural Center, said Authority Director Kevin Hendrick. This year, instead of competing with the fair, the authority staff decided to co-host the event.
In return for filling out a survey, hundreds of people received a free T-shirt from Hendrick and his staff. Near the end of the event, Hendrick only had a handful left and they were going fast.
"We would attract a couple hundred people, but (we felt) we were preaching to the choir," Hendrick said of the authority's prior festival. "This year we decided to jump on board. It's been a pleasure working with the Youth and Family Fair Committee. We've attracted 10 times more people."
In addition to celebrating Earth Day, the Youth and Family Fair's theme centered around a question county Supervisor David Finigan publicly asked earlier this year: "How are the children?" Nearly 40 agencies had booths with healthy snacks, activities for kids and information for parents, said Melodee Mitchell. The event has attracted close 2,000 people, she said, and every year it grows.
Mitchell, Cathy Tryon of the Family Resource Center and Doreen Wells, who works with the Del Norte County Office of Education, organized the Youth and Family Fair. Agencies with booths included the Del Norte County Unified School District, Building Healthy Communities, the Nutrition Network's Harvest of the Month Program and Expanding Youth Horizons.
"We bring children and families together to educate parents and entertain children for free," Mitchell said, praising the volunteers and the effort it took to raise funds for the event. "It takes an entire community."
Tryon added that this year's fair represented four solid months of planning and preparing.
"We've been doing meetings since the first Friday of January," she said. "We have a devoted committee."
On Saturday, the Wonder Bus mobile library made an appearance, as did the goats, chickens and rabbits of the Wild River and Giddy Up N' Goats 4-H clubs. Students with the Tsunami Martial Arts Center showed off their karate skills and Del Norte High student Molly Aton performed a moving rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".
Aton, who sings for the high school's stage band and Madrigals group and plays in the steel band, said she heard Cohen's song on "American Idol" and thought it would sound well paired with a ukelele.
"I love that song," she said.
The fair was sponsored by the Del Norte County Tobacco Use Prevention Program, the Solid Waste Management Authority, Recology and the county fair's 41st District Agricultural Association.
Mitchell said those organizations started hosting the fair after the Child Abuse Prevention Council was unable to continue due to funding issues.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.