Children are our future: Childfest 2014

The 2015 brochure didn't disappoint, my daughter and me are both in it.

The 2015 brochure didn’t disappoint, my daughter and I are both in it.

I have to confess that writing something about the children’s festival in St. Albert has been on my mind since my wife started bugging me about blogging.  To start off, if you live in the Edmonton area (or Alberta in general) and have not attended the Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival, you have been missing out on an amazing event. I tend to give my spare time pretty completely to the activities that my children involve themselves in.  I probably work twenty hours a week on average scouts but there are weeks in July and August this year where I will take my kids and disappear into a world of adventure for a week straight.  In April I have two weekends booked for advanced training without any of my kidlets, but the training will make me a better volunteer.  Then there is the Children’s Festival.  Since 2002, I have taken an entire week off work, not so much to volunteer with my kids but with the organization that they love so much. When I started volunteering I was still walking with a cane from an injury so I started just driving performers like Dan the One Man Band around but now I intersperse my transportation duties with whatever organizers want me to do during the week as well.  I always make time to volunteer with my children to make paper.  This year, paper-making will be the only thing we have done as a family for fourteen years straight.

Dan The One Man Band never fails to impress

Dan The One Man Band never fails to impress

While I would encourage everyone to give up a day of work (or week) and volunteer for this event, I would like to see more corporate sponsors and companies join the likes of ATB, Telus, Enmax, Save-On-Foods and the Disney Store in sending staff down for a volunteering experience. If you can’t volunteer for the event, at least do what my wife does and bring the kidlets down for the party!  My wife has never volunteered for one minute for the festival but without her, our family would not be able to give what we give.  So what does my wife do for five days with the little kids all day (all kidlets start volunteering at 12 years old)?  A better question would be what doesn’t she do with them?

Children’s Festival 2014

Because there is simply too much to write about, I am going to focus on just last year’s festival or I will end up with a thousand pictures and you will never be done reading…

Chantell and Taes (half of Splash and Boots) checking out selfies while Nick (the other half) looks on with a typical smile

My daughter Chantell and Taes (half of Splash and Boots) checking out selfies while Nick (the other half) looks on with a typical smile

This was a pic of Chantell (kidlet #2) with Splash & Boots.  They have been at this festival more than any other main stage act.  I remember when they played the free outdoor stage.  It is crazy how far they have come after 7 years as a main stage ticketed event and now they are on Treehouse TV… Way to go Nick and Taes!

Russel and Randal making paper

Russel and Randal making paper

Grandma Willow is taking a year off… she will certainly be missed.  This year will mark the fourteenth year that I have helped make paper in the paper-making studio with our children.  It is a family tradition I suppose, one of the few we have. Every year I work with companies that pay thousands of dollars to sponsor tents and activities and then supply volunteers to man these tents.  Kudos to these wonderful companies.  Some of the ones that I recall are Save-On-Foods, Epcor, Enmax, CN, Standard General, Telus and Pattison.  There are other companies out there like the Disney Store that promote volunteering in the community to their employees.   Here are some pics of their employees at last year’s festival…

Stacey and some friends from the Disney Store

Stacey, Tara and Claudia from the Disney Store

Disney Store employees showed up one day to lend a helping hand

Terry and Megan were just some of the Disney Store employees that showed up one day to lend a helping hand

Disney employees were all smiles at the 2014 Children's Festival

Disney employees like Tori and Candace were all smiles at the 2014 Children’s Festival

Princess Cydnee and big brother Raimond in a TeePee

Princess Cydnee and big brother Raimond in a TeePee

Cydnee was in her Disney Princess phase at last year’s Children’s Festival.  Here is a picture of her on the Canadian Heritage trail in an authentic Tee-pee.  The Canadian Heritage trail has a half-dozen or so activities that focus on First Nations including story telling and musical acts as well as crafts and artwork.

Cydnee (as Elsa) making paper with Rembrandt

Cydnee (as Elsa) making paper with Rembrandt

As a family, we have enjoyed this festival and its many activities but I especially enjoy the ones like Grandma Willow and Paper Making where the kids get to take a craft home at the end of the event.  The paper is amazing for crafts at home and handmade cards.  We must have made well over a hundred sheets in the past thirteen years.

Cydnee (as Aurora) gives dad a kiss after he helped her hang her Hopes and Dreams on the Dream Tree (hers was "I wish every little girl felt like a princesss")

Cydnee (as Aurora) gives dad a kiss after he helped her hang her Hopes and Dreams on the Dream Tree (hers was “I wish every little girl felt like a princess”)

I have mentioned already, but can’t really stress enough, how much my children are going to miss Marie, who has been at the festival every year as Grandma Willow.  She is one of the most compassionate women I have ever met and her love of children and life flows out through her stories.  For the past few years she has had a Dream Tree in her tent.  The kids hear a story or spend some time with Grandma Willow and then put their dreams and wishes on the tree.  By the end of the week there are well over a thousand wishes weighing down the limbs of the tree.  I found a picture from last year with Cydnee giving me a kiss on the nose as Sleeping Beauty just after hanging her Wish on the Dream Tree.  Her Dream?  She wished that every little girl felt like a princess.

Princess Cydnee (as Rapunzel), enjoying a snack with dad

Princess Cydnee (as Rapunzel), enjoying a snack with dad

I think that there was one really rainy day last year that Stacey missed but for every other day, Cydnee wore a different princess dress.  I caught pics of her with Rapunzel, Aurora and Elsa.  You can tell which days they went to early shows because by the time the end of the day comes and Stacey brings me the baby so that the big kids can go do something, she is running around on the edge of unconsciousness.  Here is a picture of her enjoying a snack with dad in the volunteer room at the end of a very long day for a princess.

Stacey typically brings the kids for about six  or eight hours each of the five days and the festival site can involve a whole lot of walking.  For a princess who just turned three at last years festival it made for some very long days.  Twice, I took her into Splash and Boot’s show to see if she would get excited by their awesome interaction with the youth.  Both shows ended up the same… she didn’t survive for two songs in either show.

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