JOLIET – The Kidz are alright.
Chicago Street was blocked off Saturday from Jefferson Street to Benton Street as hundreds of families attended the annual KidzFest.
“There’s enough stuff for everyone to do,” said Natalie Dober, 9, of Plainfield, who attended with her mother, Ann Marie Dober. “It’s good for kids of all [ages].”
Within minutes of arriving at the event, Natalie had her face painted with a watermelon design, received a balloon necklace, bounced in the Joliet Slammers inflatable jump area and climbed into the turret of the Joliet Police Department’s armored truck for a photo.
“But her favorite thing has been the snow cone,” her mother said.
KidzFest, which began in 2005, is a free event geared toward children ages 2 to 12, “where they can play, explore, imagine and create,” according to information provided by the Joliet City Center Partnership.
Exhibition space was free for any booth that had an interactive activity and those selling refreshments paid a vendor fee.
The Joliet Cyborgs offered a chance to “drive” a robot that resembled a Mars rover and could launch a foam ball. Some yellow Minions, Chuck E. Cheese and Raphael of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles waved and posed for pictures. If the amphibian martial artist had moved a block to the north, he could’ve watched a tae kwon do demonstration.
Kids could win prizes playing hopscotch, hula hooping or participating in a version of Candyland. The Joliet fire and police departments had several vehicles on display.
Lewis University set up a satellite campus in the parking lot across from the Rialto Square Theatre that featured basketball and exhibits on geology, broadcasting and aviation.
Kids were recorded doing a mock weather report on camera, and others signed up for a flight simulator computer to practice landing on an aircraft carrier.
A small plane where young children could sit in the cockpit was probably the busiest photo spot of the event.
“There are a lot of good activities for kids,” said Brad Darnell, of Joliet, who was accompanying his son, Mason Darnell, 4.
Brad said their family has attended three KidzFests, though his son could still be surprised at everything offered. Mason was most interested in seeing his cousins who were also in attendance.
At the northern end of the event, The Urban Fishing League offered youngsters a chance to catch toy fish that were laid on the sidewalk and a petting zoo and pony rides occupied the middle of the street.
Zella Diaz, 3, of Joliet, decided against a pony ride, but appeared to enjoy riding on her father’s shoulders while she and her mother shared an ice pop.
“We’re new to the area and are glad there are things like this,” Carlos Diaz said.
His wife, Alma Campos, said the couple learned about the event from the large inflatable animal that had been set up at Route 59 and Caton Farm Road.
“And it’s a nice day. A lot of families can come to this,” she said.