Characters and parties and magic, oh my! — Numerous free children’s events planned for Covered Bridge Days

Published 4:55 pm Friday, September 17, 2021

By Lynn J. Richardson
 
When one talks with Kelly Kitchens about all the children’s events she’s planning for the upcoming Covered Bridge Days festival on Sept. 24-26, she can’t quit smiling.
“I’m just very passionate about this,” she said. “I have kids of my own, and I want to give all of our community’s children the thrill of having something to do here, without having to go somewhere else. What an opportunity this is for our kids! This is quality entertainment.”
Kitchens, who is the Programming and Special Events Coordinator for the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department, says the best part of the children’s activities planned for this year’s festival is that so many activities will be free.
That is possible she said because of the overwhelming support the Parks & Rec department has received from both the business community, in the form of sponsorships, and members of the community who have stepped up to volunteer.
“When we started planning these events, we talked a lot to the community and past sponsors, to figure out what had been successful in the past. We learned a lot from those conversations.
“We know it is very difficult for a lot of families to pay for children’s events, even more so now with Covid. There have been job losses, scaled back hours. It is a hard for families with multiple children to afford the activities, so that is why we are offering as much as possible free of charge.”
The list of fun and free things to do is long — seven large inflatables, magic shows, interactive storybook fun, foam parties and more than 20 child-friendly characters who will be available for meet and greets throughout the festival at various locations.
Characters making their debut for the first time at the Elizabethton festival include Winnie the Pooh & friends, Blue’s Clues, Big Bird, Elmo, SpongeBob, Scooby Do and Mickey Mouse and friends Minnie, Pluto, Goofy and Donald.
“This is a huge opportunity to be able to offer this to our kids here,” Kitchens said. “The events will take place at different times and places throughout the weekend. Characters will be involved in the interactive storybook event, so children not only can listen to some of their favorite stories, but they can watch and play and have a good time.”
All children’s events will open at 3 p.m. on Friday and go till 7 p.m., from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 1-6 p.m. on Sunday.
“The foam party will be open on Edwards Island, and that’s a brand new thing. It’s never been done before in Elizabethton,” Kitchens said. “Think about it like sprinklers, but it sprays foam. It is water based so you may get wet — not soaking wet — so dress accordingly. It will be a fun time.”
There is still a need for volunteers, Kitchens says, with 30 of the original 113 spots still open. Volunteers are needed to fill two-hour time slots with the greatest need on Friday and Saturday evenings, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Helpers can choose to sit and watch the inflatables, don a character costume (no face painting is involved) or be a handler for someone wearing a costume.
The age requirement for characters is 16+ and Kitchens says that people who have breathing issues might want to volunteer as either a handler or an inflatable sitter, rather than wearing a costume which she says gets very warm.
“None of this is difficult work,” she added. “We are pleased that we can offer opportunities for people to give back to their community and without this help, we won’t be able to run all the activities we want.”
In addition to all the free events, there will be some popular attractions that require outside help and will have a nominal fee, such as the bungee trampoline, the hydro ball, the “spinny” gyro seat and some carnival-type games.
“We are offering so many options,” Kitchens said. “You can either do it all, just focus on all the free events or mix it up. It is up to the families. We are just so excited to bring all these fun things to the children in our community.”
Those interested in volunteer opportunities may contact Kitchens at 423-342-7877, email her at kkitchens@cityofelizabethton.org or sign up on the festival website coveredbridgedays.org.