When you picture a family fun day, you probably envision carnival rides, delicious fair food, and games all your loved ones can enjoy. You probably also groan at the thought of how much all that can cost. What if I said you can get all of this and more for free? It sounds almost too good to be true, but the Conroe KidzFest has been making the impossible a reality for the past 12 years.
KidzFest is an annual children and family festival that will cover downtown Conroe this year on April 25th. From 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, the four blocks between Heritage Park and Founders Plaza will welcome families to enjoy games, rides, food, and interactive activities, all for free. According to City of Conroe Parks and Recreation supervisor Mike Cantu, this makes KidzFest the biggest family event in the area. “It’s the only event this season and in this area that focuses solely on children and family,” says Cantu, who also serves as the event’s marketing director. “It’s definitely the only one that’s completely free.”
That is thanks, in part, to the dozens of community sponsors and local businesses which collectively donate over $30,000 to the event. These groups sponsor the many interactive activity booths, games, and banners that cover the festival. Their contributions keep the event free and, in turn, the businesses get to be part of what’s become one of the area’s biggest community outreach opportunities. “Each year, it gets easier to get groups involved,” Cantu says. “They see how many families come out, and they seek us out now. KidzFest a great way to interact with the community.”
In fact, KidzFest is expecting to bring in as many as 15,000 people throughout the day, welcoming up to 90 vendors, and housing dozens of activities. To make this happen, The City of Conroe Parks and Recreation Department works year-round to plan the event. On the big day, they partner with over 300 volunteers from local organizations and high schools to keep it running. Cantu says the result is a day full of fun, and he gave Postcards an exclusive preview of what families can expect this year during a day at the festival.
As always, KidzFest is divided into ten sections or villages that each include themed interactive activities for children. You can start at The Sports Village at Heritage Place Park. Kids can play basketball or enjoy the rock climbing wall, and the whole family can take turns riding the mechanical bull. Next, cool off at the Splash Zone on the other side of the main stage, which has a water slide and games.
Then, head to The Scouting Village, where you can meet and learn about area Boy and Girl Scouts, and see how your kids can get involved. Next, check out the race car simulator, or the event’s newest attraction, a high flying zip line, for something the whole family can get a kick out of. Afterward, make sure you take a moment to meet some of the representatives from local churches and organizations who’ll be handing out information.
You’ll probably be hungry then, so stop by one of the food vendors and have a snack, or if you have a real sweet tooth, enter the pie eating contest. However, picnics are permitted as well; feel free to bring your own food and enjoy a homemade lunch before getting back into the swing of things. The Art Village on Thompson Street is the next stop. Children can make crafts at the booths, and the whole family can enjoy the Mandaley Art Gallery, where there will be a student art show underway. You’ll be ready then to visit The Earth Village, where the whole family can learn about things like recycling, conserving energy, and going green.
Send the whole family down the giant slide at the end of Simonton Street, and you’ll end up at The History Village, one of the newest attractions. You’ll learn about Conroe’s history, and you can even watch blacksmith demonstrations and western reenactments. Follow that up with The Safety Village at the corner of Main and Metcalf Streets. Here the fire and police departments will teach patrons how their organizations work to keep to the community safe. Your family can meet the officers and firefighters, and kids can even sit in the fire truck.
Next, keep going down Metcalf Street to visit The Cultural Village. Enjoy singing and dancing in live performances representing different cultures. Further down Metcalf Street is The Discovery Village, with eye-catching things like cow milking demonstrations. Fittingly, there’s a petting zoo right next to it on the corner of Thompson and Metcalf Streets, where you can find live snakes and other enticing animals. Evening should be drawing near by then, but before you go, visit The Healthapooloza [sic] Village. There you can meet chiropractors, dentists, pediatricians, and other local healthcare professionals who can teach you about their practices, and how you and your family can stay healthy.
However, that doesn’t have to be the end of the day. Make your way back to Heritage Place Park at 8:00 pm for a special screening of Disney’s Maleficent in the park. Bring a couple of blankets to sit on, a basket full of food to enjoy, and relax in front of the huge inflatable movie screen with the other families that have also enjoyed a day full of free, family-friendly fun. According to Cantu, this is what makes the KidzFest so important.
“So many families come up to us and say, ‘Thank you for providing this,’ because KidzFest really helps them financially,” Cantu says. “So many people are going through tough times right now, and this lets them bring grandparents, neighbors, friends, and their kids together to just have a fun day. It’s impactful because it allows them to create memories for years to come.”