(photo: Post Crescent)
APPLETON – When Quarry Quest called it quits about a year and a half ago, it left a lot of people who played a role in organizing the annual and wildly popular family-friendly event with some free time on their hands.
A group with a passion for helping children — and giving Fox Cities families something fun and educational to do on an upcoming Saturday afternoon — apparently just couldn’t go too long without starting something new.
The first Fox Cities Kidz Expo, featuring an array of activities and educational opportunities for parents and children ages 12 and younger, is ready for launch April 8 at the Fox Valley Technical College campus in Appleton. And it’s free.
“As an organization, we have always had an interest in serving youth in the community, trying to make this a a much better community for families and for children in particular,” said Paul Shrode, a member of the Appleton Fox Cities Kiwanis Club and the Kidz Expo committee co-chair. “(The Kiwanis Club was) looking to do something in the time of year when there doesn’t seem to be much to do for families, and thought that a kids expo is an opportunity. We’ve seen some of them around the country. We did a little research and there are some great ones out there, and thought the Fox Cities could use something like that.”
Shrode, who in his day job is the director of regional operations at FVTC, and fellow co-chair (and fellow Kiwanis member) Jean Long Manteufel decided to take charge. The Kiwanis club had played a role in Quarry Quest each year and, using their network of connections, knew they could get this type of event together.
“We have an awesome team of people working on it,” Manteufel said. “I think we have (about) 25 people on our committee, a really nice cross-section of the community helping us out.”
What they’ve put together since the idea first emerged in October is a free six-hour sprawl of interactive and educational activities from more than 30 exhibitors. There will be everything from face-painting and balloon animals to exhibits on dinosaurs and summer camp games. There’ll be a fire truck and police car (and possibly military vehicles) for youngsters to check out. There’s a diaper derby, meaning toddlers will get the opportunity to show off their speed. There also will be appearances from the likes of Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ mascot Fang, Funset Boulevard’s Teddy Token and Sparky the Grand Chute fire dog.
Quarry Quest had a 17-year run as a wildly popular day out for Fox Valley families. Held at the 100-acre Michels Materials Quarry in Neenah, the event was drawing more than 15,000 people each year. The final Quarry Quest was in 2015. This is not that, Manteufel said, but it can fit a need and provide families with a new reason to get out of the house (especially considering recent temperatures).
Among the exhibitors are the Grand Chute fire and police departments, Thrivent Financial, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts of America, YMCA of the Fox Cities and Weis Earth Science Museum. Each one will have an interactive element — organizers stressed the Kidz Expo was not the sort of thing where people show up, walk around and get handed pamphlets.
Affordability was key, too. Admission to the event is free for all comers and the only reason to reach for the wallet will be for food. Other than that, exhibitors won’t be trying to get patrons to buy anything.
Shrode said the committee is preparing for a turnout of about 3,000 people but said for a first-year operation it’s hard to know what to expect.
“We hope to make this a regular feature in the spring,” Shrode said. “We would like to keep it pretty central in Appleton and the Fox Cities because we like to be accessible to the community. The college, of course, is on bus lines, there’s plenty of parking, (the) easy access of the highway. It’s easy to get to.”
Shane Nyman: 920-996-7223, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @shanenyman
IF YOU GO
What: Fox Cities Kidz Expo
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 8
Where: Fox Valley Technical College, 1825 N. Bluemound Drive, Appleton
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