By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

An estimated 400 parents and children attended the 30th annual local celebration of the Week of the Young Child on Saturday at the Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Center to participate in interactive theater and see dances, music and arts that other generations have made for their education and delight.

Activities included "Dog Days," stories with Buddy the Library Dog; and performances by the Fancy Pranzer Dancers, Hammond Entertainment and Productions, and the Hand to Mouth Puppet Theatre in the center's gymnasium. Outside, children could participate in face-painting, a moonwalk, bead-stringing and other crafts.

Nationwide, the National Association for the Education of Young Children has sponsored the Week of the Young Child observance for 71 years. This is its 30th year in Central Texas under the name, Kids Arts Festival.

In other rooms of the center, children had a chance to view quilt-making by the 55Up senior recreation club that meets in the center at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, plus intricate woodcarving by the local chapter of the Texas Woodcarvers Guild that meets there from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

All activities were free of charge, sponsored by 55Up, Harker Heights Parks and Recreation, and the Central Texas College child development program.

Gordon Bacon, chair of CTC's department of early childhood professions, noted that April is also the Month of the Military Child. Heights librarian Lisa Youngblood said it's also Child Abuse and Neglect Month, so the festival had plenty to observe.

Joyce Mayer of 55Up said her organization, with members from Temple to Kempner, had been showing quilts at the festival for 18 years. This year, they also were demonstrating a game called "pickle ball," a whiffle-ball sport developed by a family in Seattle. She called it "a combination of ping-pong, badminton and tennis, safe enough for young children to play with adults."

The club invites players of all ages to learn the game. Beginners play at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and advanced players on Wednesday.

She said the inventing family had a dog named Pickle whose job it was to retrieve the ball whenever it went wild at the command, "Pickle, ball!" So the game got its name.

She lamented that many parents hurried their children along before they had finished their fascination with the brightly colored quilts.

Woodcarvers Jim Blankinship and Joe Carter said more of their guild's members would have been there, but they were finishing a week-long statewide convention in Fredericksburg.

They showed three or four ornamental canes made for wounded veterans among many figurines of animals and other items.

"The guild in Oklahoma started this tradition," Blankinship said, "and it caught on. We set a goal for one, give it away and then start another one."

Other organizations participating in various ways included the Central Texas Association for the Education of Young Children; three Head Start programs from Florence, Marble Falls and the Temple 4-C's; Bell County Partners in Education Home Day Care Association; Texas Land & Cattle restaurant; Stella's Day Care of Lampasas; Little Lambs Learning Center; New Life Apostolic Church; Copperas Cove Independent School District Avenue E Child Development Center; Family Day Care Association; Military Child Coalition; Little Killeen Academy; Harker Heights Police Academy Alumni Association; Tidge's Quest, and Harker Heights Teen Volunteers.

Contact Don Bolding at or (254) 501-7557.

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