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Event celebrates families with fun and games

March 07, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Kim Gates says kids don't have a lot of things to do in the area, and when she discovers something, it usually "costs a fortune."

So the Hedgesville, W.Va., woman was happy when she found Mardi Gras 2005, Celebration of the Family, on Sunday.

Gates brought her three grandchildren to the annual event for a day of face painting, crafts, door prizes, food and meeting characters like the Chick-Fil-A cow.

One of the biggest attractions, especially for adults, was the price.

Adults could get into the event at the Moose Lodge 120 for $5 and those ages 12 and younger were admitted free.

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The event attracted approximately 315 people.

The Mardi Gras celebration is designed to give kids and their families a safe environment in which to enjoy activities. It grew out of a West Virginia governor's summit in 1997, which was held to promote important issues for kids, such as safe environments, caring adults and healthy programs, organizers said.

Last year, the celebration was held at Shepherd University, but this year it was moved to a sprawling hall in the Moose Lodge at 201 Woodbury Ave. in Martinsburg.

Some adults wore beads around their necks, just like they would at a typical Mardi Gras party, and decorative lights were strung around the room. Professional magician Michael T. and Joe Santoro's Wonderment Puppets made appearances while adults relaxed at tables spread across the room.

"Each year it gets better," said Ursula McBee, who decided to bring her 20-month-old daughter, Abigail.

McBee said her daughter has her own baby sitter and is not around other children, so she wanted to bring her daughter to the Mardi Gras party to socialize with other children.

"She loved the Chick-Fil-A cow. That was definitely her favorite," McBee said.

The Chick-Fil-A cow was one of several characters expected to make an appearance. Others included McGruff the Crime Dog, and Vince and Larry, the crash dummies.

The party blended fun with education.

At one of the tables, Chris Merritt handed out calendars with child-raising hints for parents. Among the tips were that children who participate in creative activities like dance or playing musical instruments will do better in school.

Merritt, an adolescent health coordinator, said this is the first time she has been to the event.

"The atmosphere is great. The kids really seem to be enjoying it," Merritt said.

One of the craft activities for children was decorating bottles and filling them with materials they could rattle during a Mardi Gras parade that was to proceed around the room.

The event was sponsored by the Family Resource Network of the Panhandle and several area businesses.

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