Karen Mays didnt have a chance to bring her children to events like Joint Base Lewis-McChords Kids Fest April 3.
But she has a second chance with her granddaughter Fallen Star, 8, who she takes to the annual event every April as a way to kick off the Month of the Military Child.
Its a day especially for (children), Mays said. She looks forward to it every year.
Organized by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Kids Fest provides more than three hours of activities, games and entertainment for JBLM kids, which usually falls during spring break.
This years Kids Fest grew from last years event. With more than 20 community organizations from the installation, and activities ranging from musical entertainments to foam sword fights, it made sense for FMWR to expand the events to inside the FMWR Fest Tent like it has in recent years.
Especially since the annual festival attracts 2,000 to 3,000 children and parents.
We needed to expand into the tent to spread things out, said Gloria Tomczweski, FMWR special events coordinator. This place (AFC Arena) used to be where you could barely walk.
At the AFC Arena, JBLM organizations set up booths with different types of activities and games that not only provided fun, but educated families about their programs, how-to projects and safety tips, including Madigan Army Medical Center Pediatrics, Hillside Youth Center and the JBLM Sustainability Program.
It gives our community a sense that we have a presence here, said Christian Owens of the Directorate of Emergency Services Crime Prevention. Its also an opportunity to get ahead of crime instead of reacting to it. Despite the rain, lines of children formed around static vehicle displays in the parking lot shared between AFC Arena, Bowl Arena and the FMWR Fest Tent. Different units brought vehicles they use in training and overseas for children to climb into.
There were also vehicles from the JBLM Fire and Emergency Services and JBLM Military Police. Children enjoyed playing with the buttons inside that set off the lights, sirens and horns.
It shows them cops arent bad or scary, said Spc. Matthew Wells of JBLM DES police. Its a good representation to show.
Organizations from outside the installation also brought some fun for the military children.
There were interactive and educational activities like a recyclable rocket and paper-twirly birds provided by the Museum of Flight, Pacific Science Center of Seattle and Olympias Hands-On Childrens Museum.
Its nice because then if we would like to go to any of these museums, we get a little taste here, said Sharon Pratt, who brought her 7-year-old son Thomas.
Children were also treated to a free game of bowling at Bowl Arena Lanes, an activity that can be costly, especially when someone like Maria Kennedy and her friend brought seven children.
This has been quite the blessing, Kennedy said.
Throughout the afternoon, Cowboy Buck and Elizabeth and Captain Starship provided musical entertainment. There were also performances from Danielles School of Dance out of McChord Field and gymnastics students from JBLM Schools of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills from Hillside Youth Center on Lewis Main.
There was plenty for children to do, see and enjoy.
It gets the military community together, said Amber Rozek, who brought her son Mark, 12, and daughter Malena, 10. It makes me want to live on post when they have these activities here.