Young child is focus of event

Family festival offers fun and information for parents and children

April 11, 1999|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

Ten-year-old Jessica Stein had long forgotten about the raffle when she heard her name announced over the loudspeaker.

She raced across the square.

It was a small prize, compared with the recent Big Game lottery -- a bag of books, videos and stuffed animals from Maryland Public Television -- but just as exciting for a little girl who didn't think she had a chance, who had announced, early in the day, that "we have about three chances out of a million."

Jessica was among an estimated 5,000 people who turned out for yesterday's first "Family Edventure Day," sponsored by the governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families. The daylong festival at the Market Place plaza downtown was held to raise awareness that this month is Maryland Month of the Young Child.

Early in the day, Jessica filled out her raffle ticket -- then promptly forgot about it.

There were too many other things to think about. First, there were all the booths, sponsored by some 30 museums and nonprofit groups around the city, offering activities and giveaways.

She was also keeping an eye on her baby brother, David, who at 18 months spent much of the morning stalking a life-sized Cookie Monster wandering the square, saying, "Kiss, kiss."

While Jessica and 7-year-old brother Adam raced from booth to booth, and David chased Cookie Monster, mom and dad -- Joy and Brian Stein of Owings Mills -- tried to keep track of their brood as they gathered information about resources around the state for children.

At the Walters Art Gallery booth, children painted landscapes with watercolors and tissue paper. At the Baltimore Zoo booth, they touched a snakeskin and looked at a bat skeleton.

A folk guitarist let the children strum his guitar while he sang. A woman rode a unicycle.There was a puppet show, a fire truck and a bookmobile from the Enoch Pratt Free Library. There were hot dogs and soft drinks and pretzels.

And the wind -- blowing pamphlets off tables and sometimes hats off heads.

Colleen M. DeCoster, spokeswoman for the Office for Children, Youth and Families, pronounced the event a success. "The kids are having a great time," she said.

Well, not everyone.

The "Three Little Pigs" miniopera, performed by the student apprentices from the Baltimore Opera Studio, struck fear in the hearts of some.

Alexander Payne, who turns 2 May 1, was screaming, tears streaming down his face, as he clutched his mother's leg, trying to escape the Big Bad Wolf.

"The wolf came out and he flipped," said his mother, Amy Lauritzen of Beltsville.

By lunchtime, the Steins' stroller brimmed with handmade projects, handouts and free tickets to the Baltimore Flag House, which the family planned to visit in the afternoon.

"Recreational activities unite families together," said Joy Stein, who, as a certified therapeutic recreation specialist, would know. "Kids want to have fun with their families.

"More people should take advantage of programs like this."

Pub Date: 4/11/99

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