hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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May 15, 2014

'Farming out' KidsFEST

Event moves to Kimball Farm

HAVERHILL — During the 1990s, Haverhill’s annual KidsFEST packed downtown streets on a weekend in May with children and their parents enjoying pony and wagon rides, petting zoos, carnival games, band performances and carnival food while also shopping for arts and crafts.

But it fizzled out in 2004. After city event coordinator Laurie Chase died on New Year’s Day, 2006, after a lengthy battle with cancer, the city revived the fun family event she’d helped coordinate each year.

KidsFEST moved around to various downtown locations, including Railroad Square, then in 2012 it was moved to the upper deck of the Merrimack Street parking garage. Last year it returned to downtown streets, but this year it’s been moved out of the center of town to rural Kimball Farm in the eastern part of the city on May 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Kimball Farm, 791 East Broadway.

Rain date is Sunday, May 25, same times.

Organizers of one of Haverhill’s biggest social events of the year say that by moving KidsFEST 2014 out of the downtown to a local farm, they can offer different activities than in past versions of the family festival, while bringing people of all ages closer to nature.

Outside food and beverages, dogs, skateboards and bicycles will not be permitted.

Admission is free, however, a fee of $2 per car to park at the farm will defray staffing costs, while additional parking proceeds will be donated to a local charity, organizers said.

Organizers say they carefully considered and debated the use of shuttles to bring more people to the event, but the cost of the busing service and the associated liability expense and exposure made it an impossibility on the limited budget they have to produce the event, they said.

“Since the event is run completely by volunteers and by the generosity of private business sponsors, we have to weigh carefully each decision we make from a financial and logistical perspective,” said Chamber Vice President Jennifer Cantwell.

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