AP NEWS

Kidz Explore brings youth together for a fun and educational day

October 30, 2018

SCOTTSBLUFF — Ryan Hall waited patiently in line to take a turn at archery. When it was his turn, he ignored the sounds of the crowd of people still in line behind him and lined up his shot at the target. With his eyes on the target, he pulled back the bow and released an arrow.

Hall and hundreds of other youth had come to the Monument Mall on Saturday to participate in the 2018 Kidz Explore. Now in its 19th year, the interactive event aims to provide fun and education to the youth who attend. In the first two hours of the event, more than 300 youth had walked through the doors to see what the 53 vendors had to offer.

Connie Ernest, Star-Herald marketing director, knew she was up against other events in town on Saturday, including youth football, but was pleased with the turnout. As the hours passed, many of those who were at youth football also came to Kidz Explore.

The event moved venues this year to the Monument Mall in Scottsbluff from the Scotts Bluff County Events Center in Mitchell. The change allowed for more vendors and more room as vendors were spread throughout the mall. Ernest said people liked the change as well as the fact the event is now free.

Christa Pelster, property manager at Monument Mall, said it was wonderful she and Ernest were able to work together to bring the event to Scottsbluff.

“I live in Mitchell, but I know how far it is to travel here,” Pelster said. “When Connie approached me, I thought it would be wonderful to have the kids here, but also have everything in a central location.”

The day’s theme was “Step away for the day and put down the device” and it appeared to be a hit. Parents worked with their children on some interactive activities and stepped back to watch their children figure things out for themselves.

Ernest said one of her favorite parts of the day was seeing children interact with first responders.

“They are our hometown heroes,” Ernest said. “Kids don’t normally get to see and talk with them.”

The first 100 children through the door received a free fishing pole from Cabela’s. The next 100 received goodie bags. Inside, there were more giveaways and adventures. Children spent their time learning about anti-bullying, fire safety and gun safety, while participating in fun events, such as flipping on a bungee trampoline, archery and car repair.

Pelster even had a few minutes to head down to the Cabela’s booth to have some fun and learn about gun safety.

“It was awesome,” Pelster said.

Ernest agreed. For her, everything at the event was “awesome.”

The event also boasted several nonprofit vendors, such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children), Head Start and ESU #13, that parents could gather information from.

“A lot of people don’t know about them or what they can do,” Ernest said.

There were also other vendors, such as the Scottsbluff Kiwanis, Riverside Discovery Center and the Scotts Bluff National Monument where parents learned about many of the programs available to them and their children.

The Kiwanis mission is to serve and support the children of the world and Kidz Explore is a good opportunity to show the public what they do. Their theme this year is anti-bullying. The Kiwanis booth had activities related to the theme. Children could take a pledge to not bully and color one of several handouts available.

Members talked to youth about bullying and encouraged them to write positive messages on a leaf to be placed onto a homemade tree.

“It’s important in today’s society for us all to be kind to each other,” said Kendra Lauruhn, past president of Kiwanis. “With the leaves, they can write good and encouraging things to say to each other.”

Kiwanis members also wanted the kids to just have a little fun and taught them how to make origami items.

“We want them to also be able to explore different things, so we thought we’d have them explore origami,” Lauruhn said.

The day, which is designed as a fun day for children, was a hit. Ernest was pleased that the children were having fun.

“They’re playing and learning and that’s what it’s all about,” Ernest said.