print story Print email this story to a friend E-Mail

tool name

tool goes here

JBLM Kids’ Fest

It’s all about reptiles

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:43PM April 12th, 2018

Northwest Guardian

Zaylee Koppen, 9, of Lacey, rides a 220-pound tortoise named Tank during a Reptile Isle show featuring Don “The Reptile King” Riggs, right, at Kids’ Fest on Lewis Main April 5.

Hundreds of children and their parents enjoyed the activities and sights at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Kids’ Fest April 5 at Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Fest Tent on Lewis Main.

Christy Townsend took pictures on her phone of her son, Jacob, 5, seeing all of the different static military vehicles sitting outside the Fest Tent. She said it was neat for her son to get to turn the crank for the M777A2 medium towed howitzer.

Jacob also had the chance to climb into the truck bed of the M777-series prime mover for the howitzer.

“You see (these things) sometimes on base, but passing by,” Townsend said, whose husband, Master Sgt. David Townsend, is with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 7th Infantry Division. “This gives kids a hands-on experience to get to know the equipment that’s here on base.”

Along with static vehicles, JBLM police officers and firefighters also brought their vehicles for kids to see up close. Ticen Varney, JBLM civilian police officer, said he appreciated the opportunity to let kids sit in the front seats and press buttons.

“I love doing community policing and seeing how excited the kids get when I turn my lights and sirens on,” Varney said.

Inside the Fest Tent, there were games and activities hosted by local businesses, military organizations and directorates on JBLM, such as Fire and Emergency Services, Families Overcoming Under Stress and both local Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts groups. Games included a small-scale version of Plinko, arts and crafts and a baseball pitch.

Both parents and kids had the chance to measure their best fastball. Parker Brown, 10, had his best throw of 40 miles per hour. His mom, Desire, only hit 28; although, she was holding her 2-year-old son, Carson, in a sling.

“Any time we see something like this, we have a little friendly competition,” she said. “(Parents are) not just watching the kids; we can all enjoy it.”

The neighboring Bowl Arena Lanes also provided free games of bowling during Kids’ Fest.

Additional entertainment included demonstrations from SKIES Unlimited’s dance and karate students to showcase what they’ve learned. Young dancers took the stage as adults and peers watched.

“It gives us an opportunity to show our abilities,” said Anastasia Bordwell, 10. “It also feels nice that people are considerate to us.”

Don “The Reptile King” Riggs hosted Reptile Isle for military families to see some of the different creatures he brought to base — including a baby North American black alligator named Later. Kids sitting near the front had a chance to pet Later’s tail.

“It was leathery, and it was kind of rough,” said Noah Cunningham, 9.

Marvel’s Thor made a few appearances on the main stage to talk about how to handle bullies. He asked kids take an oath to become honorary Avengers by promising to eat healthy and step away from their “magical phones” to play outside.

Sergeant Joachim Perez, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, took the opportunity to pose with Thor for a selfie with his four children: Diamante, 10, Omar, 8, Isaiah, 6, and Angel 5. It was just one of the highlights of the day for the family.

“I’ve been gone a couple of times now, so it’s nice to come here and experience all of this with them,” Perez said.

Dean Siemon: 253-477-0235, @deansiemon