Penny Wiederhold moved into the neighborhood in 1981 with her husband and son. Back then, the only thing the Fair had for children was a baby-sitting service run by one of the residents. Penny talked to the Fair folks about doing something for kids, and the next thing you know she created and ran the Children’s Area for four years.
She started off with a fishing booth since her four-and-a-half year old son, Ted, was enamored with them.
They also sold popcorn, lemonade and raspas. Prizes were donated or bought for the kids by neighbors. Hot Wheels race cars were the popular item to win. Limits were placed on how many times kids could participate so they wouldn’t run out of prizes. It was important to make sure all the kids could win a prize, and the fees to participate were low. It was a goodwill effort to make sure there was something fun for everyone at the Fair.
The Children’s Area was located in a corner of King William Park. Every year things were brought in to make it more fun; a ring toss was added along with other activities. Big Wheels were there for kids to race and hot dogs were added to the menu. About four years after it started, ponies were brought in for kids to ride. In those days, there were very few Fiesta events that catered to children, so by the second year the Children’s Area had become a popular destination. As it was (and still is) the same day as the Flambeau Parade, folks going to the night parade would stop by in the late afternoon for food and drinks and a chance for the kids to play.
During these early years, Learning About Learning, a program that grew out of Trinity University, got involved. This brought in more volunteers and the kids’ hat-making activity was started. Thirty-five years later, this tradition is carried on by the Mission Trail Rotary Club.
The Children’s Area has been renamed Kids Kingdom, moved to Upper Mill Park, and additional fun has been added: rock walls, slides, rides, entertainment, a story-telling tent. This year we featured the Get Creative Art Tent which offered several free art activities, hosted by Stefani Job Spears. Of course, there’s still the ring toss and fishing ponds.
The Kids Kingdom remains a goodwill effort, focusing on low-cost and free activities. Thanks, Penny, for starting a beautiful thing!
- Noah Peterson
King William Fair Coordinator