Under ordinary circumstances, the crowd packed into the main room of Old Town Hall on Monday morning would have made the fire marshal nervous. Fortunately, however, most of its members stood less than four feet tall.
The City of Fairfax kicked off its Children's Performance Series Nov. 7 with a showing of "Rapunzel" and "The Three Pigs" by Kay Dee Puppets, and a performance by storyteller Barbara Effron. The event, organized by the Task Force on Children and Families and the Spotlight on the Arts Committee, was a successful start to the weekly series, said Jo Ormesher, Spotlight on the Arts coordinator.
"I did not know what to expect," she said. "If I had got 40 people I would have been delighted. It's amazing."
Spotlight on the Arts and the Task Force on Children and Families publicized the event at all the local preschools and by word of mouth, said Ormesher, drawing over 200 people to the first performance.
The series was a logical next step in the program to bring the arts to Fairfax residents, said Ormesher. The city has performance series for adults and teens, she said, but no shows specifically geared toward young children.
For Jen Robinson, chair of the Task Force for Children and Families, a daytime program for parents and children is something the city needed.
"Fairfax is a great place to live and we want people to know that," she said. Robinson, a mother of three, started the task force with a group of other women who wanted to find a way to organize and advertise family-oriented events in the City of Fairfax, such as classes at Green Acres Center, bike groups for parents and children, or park events.
"Everybody knew something, but nobody knew everything," she said. "Now, you don’t have to know someone participating in bike group to know bike group exists."
AFTER THE City Council appointed the task force, Robinson and her colleagues collaborated with the Spotlight on the Arts committee to begin a city-centered daytime activity that parents and children could attend together.
"The moms really wanted this," said Lori Faris of Fairfax-based Kay Dee Puppets. She and her husband Scott provided some of the morning's entertainment. Faris' experience with puppet shows takes her all over Virginia, she said, but a city-sponsored performance series for children is not something she sees all the time.
"Fairfax is really on to something," said Faris. "This is really wonderful for the city."
For Kathy Lammens, daytime activities with her two children usually take the form of trips to the park, but this becomes difficult as the weather gets colder. She heard about the performance series through a neighbor, she said, and thought daughter Emma, 2, would enjoy it.
"She's at the age where she can start to appreciate things like this," said Lammens.
Evidently, Emma did enjoy herself, twirling across the floor and running full speed into her mother's legs, a wide smile on her face. Emma and her younger brother Matthew are not in school yet, said Lammens, so events with other children are especially welcome. The Children's Performance Series also helps parents and children spend time together, said Mary Lechter of the Spotlight on the Arts committee.
"Anything multigenerational, things parents and children can do together that is productive and positive, and that enforces what the children do in school, that is one of the main benefits," she said. Parent-child interaction remains with the child throughout life, said Effron.
"Any time a parent does something with a child, the child is not just going to remember it for being a story or a song," she said. "They remember it because their mom, or dad, or grandmother was with them."