Imaginations ran wild and free for children of all ages Saturday afternoon at the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival.
By the end of the day, hundreds of kids had passed through the Children’s Art Tent to work up some marble art, build something out of wood or simply take home a balloon animal, volunteers said. Youngsters also enjoyed the rides, performances and fun festival food.
The children were among thousands of visitors who turned out Saturday for the second day of the three-day festival, which draws more than 200,000 attendees each year. Today is the final day.
For the past 10 years, Denton Bible Church has been hosting the popular Children’s Art Tent at no cost. Inside, the church’s SWEAT Team — the acronym stands for Skilled Workers for Every Available Task — assisted kids with building birdhouses made from recycled fence posts from the church.
“It’s just one of the ways we try to reinvent the wheel every year,” longtime volunteer Tracy Beck said. “What’s amazing is soon we will have the second generation coming through with their kids building birdhouses, or whatever their favorite activity will be. Just like their parents did every year before them.”
Denton resident Rob Curran watched his two little girls — Gracie, 5, and Lydia, 2 — enjoy the free woodworking activities alongside friend Sydney Knouse.
“Gracie started saying, ‘I wanna go to the children’s tent; I wanna go to the children’s tent,’ so here we are,” Curran said.
He said while his favorite part of the free event is the music, the kids seem to enjoy the ice cream more.
“The music is my ice cream,” he said with a smile.
Sweet treats were at the top of the list of favorite things to do for a trio of McMath Middle School students, as well.
Katy Austin, 13, Avery Nocktonick, 13, and Jennifer Rayson, 12, said they love snow cones and the rides.
Katy said they have attended pretty much every year for as long as they can remember, although this year is the first they all three could come out together.
“I love that there is music always going,” she said.
With any good tune is dancing, and that’s exactly what Becky Aston, a 15-year-old junior at Ryan High School, said she looks forward to doing the most.
“I have performed five years here on stage and always look forward to it every year,” she said, while gearing up for her second performance of the day with the Denton City Contemporary Ballet.
Aston said she has been dancing for eight years. She would like to be a professional dancer someday and own her own studio.
“My No. 1 school of choice right now is Oklahoma University so I can major in modern dance,”she said. “That’s my goal.”
Festival organizers said children are the future, and that’s why the family event can be so inspiring.
“They are the wave of the future and who knows what might spark their eye while visiting — they could be the next dancer, artist on display or musician in the coming years,” said Carol Short, executive director for the nonprofit Denton Festival Foundation, during a recent interview.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.