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Kiwanis KidsFest draws record crowd

By Staff | Oct 29, 2013

Jade Smith, 4, had one of the best seats in the house Saturday, right near the big stage on the grounds at Jaycee Park.

Perched upon mom Jeanette’s shoulders, the tiny pink Care Bear, alternated between big smiles and admiring glances as dozens of small gymnasts went through their paces as KidsFest filled the park with scurrying children looking for entertainment and lots to do.

“Just because it’s fun, and we wanted to enter her in the costume contest, and for all of the fun things to do,” said Jeanette Smith when asked why the family came out the event organized annually by the Kiwanis Club of Harney Point-Cape Coral. “And it’s so good for the community; it’s win-win.”

KidsFest, presented this year by the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation and FOX 4, is one of the Cape’s most popular traditions.

Now in its 16th year, Saturday’s effort proved to be no exception.

“I can safely say this is the most best-attended KidsFest in our 16-year history,” said organizer Eric Feichthaler.

Volunteers parked at least 1,300 cars and crowd estimates ranged from more than 5,000 to as high as 7,000-8,000 people.

“It was definitely a record crowd over the last serveral years,” Feichthaler said.

A backpack giveaway in partnership with the Junior League, additional free attractions and entertainment, and the nice weather all contributed to the stellar turnout.

“The weather was great which, in the past several years has not been the case,” said Feichthaler, citing wind as Hurricane Sandy blew by last year, and showers the year before. “The weather was perfect, which helped attendance.

“It’s just a great, affordable event for the family,” he added.

Admission was free, parking a voluntary $2 donation, and hotdogs and soft drinks were just a buck.

Still, it’s a major fundraiser for the Harney-Point Kiwanis, which earmarks money raised for scholarships and in-school programs such as Key Club and K-Kids.

“I would expect this year we will be giving out $18,000 in total scholarship funds,” said Feichthaler, who received one of those scholarships back in 1990 when college-bound.

The Cape Coral Caring Center also benefits as attendees are asked to bring canned good donations.

As it does every year, the event featured a broad range of activities – everything from educational booths manned by police and fire personnel, free books and lots of trick-or-treat handouts to pony rides, face painting, bounce houses, rock climbing and crafts stations.

Kudos were plentiful.

“It’s a wonderful event; a lot for the children,” said Cher Martino, whose flower-bowed little one, Stella, was the youngest dancer of her troupe at a 1-1/2. “We got here early and got good parking.”

I think it’s fabulous,” said Gail Eberhard as her skeleton-clad grandson, Joshua Wilkes, 3, took a turn down the slides among other costume-clad kids. “It’s a great day for it, too.”

Courtney Long waited with other parents while son Cody, 5, got his face painted at the Kiwanis Builders Club booth.

“For fun, for family fun,” she said when asked why the family attended. “It’s good; we’re having a good time.”

As was the Minuta family.

“This is probably the best one ever,” said Marina Minuta, whose son Andiano, 6, zipped through the new obstacle course in record time. “We’ve been a couple of years; this obstacle course is a good idea.”

As always, the horse and pony rides had kids lined up, too.

‘We love it,” said mom Sam Hadden as her daughter, Alana, 9, smiled from the back of one of the horses patiently carrying young riders back and forth. “It’s our first time and we will come back every single year.”

The Harney Point Kiwanis has been serving the Cape for more than 40 years. In addition to its scholarships program, the club sponsors nearly a dozen programs in local schools including K-Kids programs at Cape, Christa McAuliffe and Oasis elementaries; Kiwanis “Building Leaders” Builders Clubs at Gulf, Mariner, Oasis and Trafalgar middle schools; Key Clubs at Ida Baker and Mariner high schools and Kiwanis “Service in Action” Aktion Club at Mariner High School.