By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Since 2004, Liberal’s Memorial Library has been helping kids, and adults, better locate the community’s health resources through its annual Children’s Healthy Fun Fair.
During its initial years, the event was hosted at the library itself, but through time, it grew, so much so that it outgrew the space.
“We were here in the library, and we had children running all over up and down the stairs,” said Diane Hensley, parent and family liaison for USD No. 480 of the first fun fairs. “I think Recreation was outside, and it was a windy, windy day.”
Because of this, the Healthy Fun Fair has spent more than half of its existence in the Ag Building at the Seward County Fairgrounds.
“We’ve been at the Ag Building for the last six or seven years,” Hensley said. “We outgrew the library very quickly. We were in the basement, and it was kind of scary down there with lots of people. We moved to the Ag Building.”
Hensley called the fair a “collaborative effort” with the involvement of many local agencies. She said the school district and the library do the bulk of the organizing, and the county provides the Ag Building for the event.
Saturday, the Healthy Fun Fair will once again take place at the fairgrounds in what has become its home, and Hensley said USD 480 will bring back some of its favorites, along with some new booths.
“The Family Resource Center and the Newcomers Center will be taking photographs,” she said. “They take pictures of the kids or the families or the kids with the KSCB Bee or Drugless Douglas. The kids can actually decorate a little frame to go with their picture.”
Hensley said the school district likewise has a booth where students and children can get a book, and she described some of the other activities USD 480 will have throughout the Ag Building.
“We have a booth where they can do a motor activity of stringing a Fruit Loop necklace or cereal necklace,” she said. “They’ll also do some little tattoos they can put on their hands or their faces.”
Memorial Library’s Phillip Lee said the library itself will have coloring books and other items for kids.
“We’ll be having name tags that we’ll be giving out,” he said. “We’ll be doing the Wii. Parks and Rec will be doing their kinetics again.”
Lee said many other organizations and groups from around Liberal will have a part in Saturday’s fair.
“We’ll have the Seward County Health Department, Southwest Guidance Center, PACT, Seward County Community College respiratory therapy students, USD 480 preschool, Liberal Police Department, Liberal and Seward County fire departments, Liberal Parks and Rec, St. Francis Community Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters,” he said. “Girl Scouts will be there this year and Kansas Children’s Service League.”
Lee added the Healthy Fun Fair is not just about nutrition.
“When you think about health, you think about nutrition and well being, but it’s more than that,” he said. “It’s more about the environment and the surroundings around you. To be healthy, you also should know about fire prevention or safety from the police department or preschool reading books and such. It’s a lot more than just eating granola and playing on the Wii and running around. It’s all about being healthy around your environment.”
Hensley agreed, saying having healthy children starts with all realms of health.
“It’s nutrition, mental health, physical health, the whole ball of wax,” she said.
Hensley said most of the booths in the Ag Building will also have information to pass out to parents.
“There might be an activity for the children to do like a simple toy or Wii, but we also usually pass out some informational pamphlets,” she said. “Most of the booths will have some informational pamphlets on child development, health and nutrition, literacy skills.”
Hensley said the goal of the Healthy Fun Fair is to have both parents and children learning from the event.
“When you see the parents and the kids together and they’re having fun, it’s a fun day for both of them,” she said. “When they get home, we want them to pull those things out of the bag and say, ‘Did you know if we have a concern with our baby’s hearing, this is the agency we would contact?’”
Lee said one thing visitors to the event will learn about the resources the community has for health issues.
“We’re gearing toward children from preschool to 6th grade,” he said. “It’s open to everybody.”
Hensley said youth from Liberal High School will also be on hand to help with the fair.
“Kids at the high school have to have so many community service volunteer hours,” she said. “We accept volunteers who are in high school so they can get some of those community service hours. Lots of times, they’re the ones that get to dress up as the characters, or they help blow up balloons.”
Hensley said with the Healthy Fun Fair having become a big annual event, many adults, as well as children, have begun to look forward to it every year, and this helps the event reach its purpose.
“I think our goal is to help educate the parents and connect them with resources throughout the community,” she said.
The Healthy Fun Fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the Seward County Ag Building. For more information, call 626-0180.