Bay Area KidFest promises fun for youngsters of all ages
By Lou Fancher
At the 2015 Bay Area KidFest, there will be no mixed messages. The three-day extravaganza taking place May 23-25 at Mount Diablo High School near downtown Concord will be fun for kids from age near-zero to a zillion.
That high-end figure includes extra credit years for kids over 21 who still thrill at pony or Euro Bungy rides, bobble lagoons, pet zoos, martial arts, dance and live-action medieval jousting demos, local bands, arts and craft excursions and the return of one of Antioch's own, "American Idol" Season 13 finalist Briana Oakley.
Event producer Jay Bedecarre said it's the 26th KidFest, but he treats it like a marriage, calling the 2015 celebration "a silver anniversary." Providing marketing for 12 of the 20 years KidFest filled Todos Santos Plaza, Bedecarre took the reigns and moved the entire show to the high school grounds in 2010, after the City of Concord said it would no longer subsidize the event and downtown merchants said the impact on parking was hurting their businesses.
The move has allowed Bedecarre to return to his alma mater -- he was once the editor of the school newspaper -- and more importantly, KidFest has grown and become more invested in the community.
"This will be the fourth year we've worked with Mt. Diablo High athletics. They provide most of the volunteer help to make KidFest go -- we have over 150 volunteers working each day," Bedecarre said.
Since 2010, local high school athletic programs have benefitted from KidFest to the tune of $40,000. A free balloon-animals-and-hats booth run by the John Muir Concord Health Occupations Students of America earns the HOSA volunteers a donation, just one example of a total $70,000 in cash donations given to local nonprofits in the past five years. Admission is $6 per person with the donation of a can of food: 30,000 pounds of canned food donations have gone to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano from the 30-40 percent of visitors who participate.
The no-alcohol, no-smoking, no-pets (except service dogs) environment said yes to more attractions each year, Bedecarre said. New in 2015 is an expanded PetFest that will build on the pet adoptions KidFest has always offered.
"We expect PetFest to grow over the years as a major component of KidFest," Bedecarre said. "The Oakland Zoo will have animals and staff that day (May 24)."
The Concord PD K-9 Unit will be at PetFest from 1 to 3 p.m. and give a demo at 2 p.m. that same day. Pet vendors and adoptions will be available throughout the festival. With the larger space, traveling shows like Aussie Kingdom and more free activities like bounce houses and other inflatables can be offered, Bedecarre said.
Booking artists and renters at the Concord Pavilion for 12 years prepared Bedecarre for handling the traveling shows and specialty acts at KidFest. He said "a great group of people" help organize the volunteers and vendors and ensure safety and security protocols.
"We've turned it into a small business doing other events (also) -- Super Holiday Boutiques, camp and school fairs, FamilyFest, Bay Area kid's book fairs and others," he said.
Bedecarre remembers bringing his two oldest sons to the first KidFest in 1990, and his three youngest children worked at the event for many years.
"Their favorite assignment was being one of the characters," he recalls.
Unwilling to tempt fate by recalling near-disaster stories from the past, Bedecarre said advance planning means any challenges that pop up are simply "part of showbiz."