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Washington youth 'investigate' fun at WCHC KidzFest

GTNS photo by Grace King

Alana Harrill, 10, pins the mustache on the detective at a station by Axis Vision Care during KidzFest at Washington High School on Friday, May 17.
GTNS photo by Grace King Alana Harrill, 10, pins the mustache on the detective at a station by Axis Vision Care during KidzFest at Washington High School on Friday, May 17.
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Jacob Green was all smiles as he taught kids about fingerprinting at KidzFest — the theme of which was “investigation” — on Friday, May 17, at Washington High School.

Green, a native of Washington, had just moved back to the community after graduating college and getting a job with McCreedy Home.

“I’m a kid at heart,” Green said. “This is my environment. I went to KidzFest a lot when I was younger.”

Getting to volunteer at KidzFest representing McCreedy Home was a great opportunity for Green to jump back into the community and volunteer.

“It’s just an exciting day, and there are so many different things for the kids to do,” Green said.

Greta Clemons, special events and marketing coordinator with Washington County Hospital and Clinics (WCHC), said the hospital sponsors KidzFest every year as a way to get kids in the community involved in health and wellness. KidzFest goes beyond educating children about physical health — organizations addressing mental health, safety and financial health were also present at the high school.

The hospital itself had eight booths representing departments like surgery, radiology, and the Emergency Room. Clemons said it’s a good way for kids to be introduced to hospital staff, who will be a familiar face if there is an emergency.

“We don’t want the hospital to be a scary place,” Clemons said.

Every year, 900 to 1,000 people attend KidzFest, Clemons said.

Carter Hughes, 6, putted a golf ball. He had an alligator painted on his face.

“I wanted the alligator to eat my eye,” he said with a grin.

For Hughes, the most fun thing about KidzFest was getting to eat cotton candy.

Jessica Hughes, Carter’s mother, said KidzFest is just a fun opportunity for the kids to enjoy and learn about a lot of new stuff.

Alana Harrill, 10, pinned the mustache on the detective at Axis Vision Care’s booth. Her mother, Crissy Harrill, said that they come to KidzFest every year because it’s good for the kids.

“There’s not much for them to do in the community, but this is our fifth year coming to KidzFest and they look forward to it every year.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office was talking with kids about staying away from prescription drugs, stranger danger, walking on sidewalks and car safety. Taking to heart the theme “investigate,” they brought their evidence collection kit with fingerprint powder.

“We want to make sure kids and parents are educated on safety, especially car seat safety,” said Nathan Schmeucker, with the Sheriff’s Office. “We want to make sure in the event of an accident, these kiddos are secure.”

Nic Williams, with the Washington Fire Department, handed kids firefighter gear before helping them navigate the fire department’s obstacle course.

Williams said it’s important for the fire department to be at KidzFest for the kids to see firefighters without all their gear on and know them as another friendly face.

“The big thing is to get out on a Friday night and support the local community. It’s a great thing,” Williams said.

Jen Weidman, with Washington County Public Health, was giving away toothbrushes, whistles and green rubber duckies which read “stop the stigma.” Public Health was focusing their message on mental health awareness and oral health.

“It’s good to get our message out about the services we provide,” Weidman said. “We’re encouraging parents to talk to their kids about feelings.”

Randi Jenkins, center coordinator at the Washington County Conservation Department, instructed kids to gently pet baby turtles and answered their questions about the other aquatic pond species the Conservation Department brought to KidzFest.

Jenkins said that she hopes their presence encourages kids to get outdoors and sparks their interest in animals.

“We want to get the kids interested in conservation,” she said.

Aliyah Jara, 13, said that KidzFest is fun because she gets to hang out with her friends. While waiting in line for the next activity, the group of middle school students started a sword fight with their balloon swords.

“We have a lot of fun here,” Jara said.

Andrew Starr, 14, said that they come for the bouncy house, food, prizes — and to stay out of trouble.

“I enjoy hanging out with my friends and not getting in trouble,” Starr said. “We’ll do the bouncy house later,” he added, saying he was saving the best for last.