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Families take center stage at Mardi Gras celebration

March 01, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A crowd of children gathered around Joe Santoro as he began leading them through a lesson on how to make a sock puppet.

He corrected himself. Instead, he would show them how to make a "stinky, smelly sock puppet."

They giggled.

Then he slipped the white sock over his hand, tucking part of it between his thumb and fingers to make a mouth.

Santoro began pulling accessories such as eyeballs and hair out of his pants pocket and adding them to the figure.

The children, seated around Santoro on the floor, watched with eyes wide open.

When Santoro asked for volunteers to help with the act, they jumped to their feet in excitement.

The children were part of an estimated 300 youths and parents who came to a Mardi Gras celebration for families at Shepherd College on Sunday.

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The Mardi Gras Celebration of the Family is in its fifth year, said Judy Boykin, executive director of the Family Resource Network, one of the sponsors. It grew out of a West Virginia governor's summit held in 1997 to promote important issues for children such as safe environments, caring adults and healthy programs, Boykin said.

The Mardi Gras celebration gives children and their families a safe environment to enjoy activities such as puppet shows and face painting. A health lesson came in the form of nutritional food offered buffet-style.

Boykin said she likes the event because of the old-fashioned family fun it promotes.

"Some of these people haven't played with their kids for a while. Get those kids from the TVs." Boykin said.

Other attractions at Sunday's event included a magic show by Michael T, who has performed at the event every year, Boykin said.

"They can see his show 20 times and they still love him," Boykin said.

While Santoro's puppet show kept one group of children occupied in one section of a room at the Student Center, Mike Plant, dressed as a big brown bear, visited others. He offered "bear hugs" at a face painting station and got down on his knees and danced with children.

Shepherdstown resident Angela Wood came to the event for the first time Sunday. Wood said she liked the celebration because it is local and because she thought her children would enjoy it.

Wood said she would welcome more similar events in the county. She said she has to go to Berkeley County to take her children swimming or to a park.

"I don't think Jefferson County has a lot for kids," Wood said.

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