Four-year-old Sophia Nelson grinned and hugged her favorite public television celebrity, Curious George, as a family member snapped a photo.
“She loves George,” the girl’s father said.
Saturday was the first of two Family Fun Days at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. The second one is Sunday, Oct. 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is sponsored by Smoky Hills Public Television and the Letter Z.
Sophia’s photo opportunity happened in the afternoon. Had she arrived earlier, she might have waited in a long line. More than 1,000 people visited the zoo Saturday, according to Rebecca Harmison at the front desk.
“We had a huge crowd this morning,” SHPTV Marketing Director Callie Kolachy said. The first 500 children received gift bags containing books and other items, as will the first 500 who attend today.
Curious George is theinquisitive monkey of children's books created by Margret and H.A. Rey, and now he’s the star of an animated series on the Public Broadcasting System.
While that was going on, singer-songwriter Randy Sauer kept the audience hopping, sometimes literally.
“Everybody up on your feet as we do the Hop Hop Shake,” Sauer said. He sang or called out directions for the motions, telling participants to “Rock out on your air guitar!”
For his song “Do the Floppy Arm,” Sauer turned on a recording and joined the dancing.
Ten-year-olds Brooke Leiker and Paige Seib danced along, as did Brooke’s little brother Zachary. Sarah Leiker said she brought the children from Munjor, which is 60 miles from Great Bend and just a few miles southeast of Hays.
“We heard about it and were decided to drive out here,” she said.
Eight more days to Halloween
Sauer teaches music at Holy Family Elementary School in Hays, but has been making a name for himself as a children’s songwriter. He won’t be at today’s Family Fun Day, but he will be back in Great Bend this coming Saturday for the Kiwanis Club’s annual Halloween Parade. Children can wear their costumes and get candy from downtown businesses starting at 11 a.m., then listen to Sauer singing in Jack Kilby Square.
Brit Spaugh Zoo is also planning another big day on Saturday. The annual Zoo Boo will run from 5:30-8 p.m. Great Bend Zoological Society President Karen Neuforth said the zoo will be closed on Saturday until the doors open for Zoo Boo, to allow time for sponsors to set up.
City staff and two dozen businesses and organizations will have displays and provide candy to trick-or-treaters. This is another chance for kids to wear their costumes.
SHPTV Fun Days
“Family Fun Day” is something we did for five years in a row in Hays,” Kolachy said. “We decided to come to Great Bend and the Zoo worked with us wonderfully. This is intended to be a family event with an opportunity for kids to meet one of their favorite PBS characters.”
Admission to Fun Day is free, as is admission to the zoo. To raise funds for the event, SHPTV is taking donations for a chance to win a Curious George gift basket.
SHPTV, based in Bunker Hill, is a public television station. Its service area includes almost all of the western half of the state.
The Great Bend Evening Lions Club was providing free vision screening on Saturday and will be back the morning for Family Fun Days, member Kevin Wondra said.
The club purchased two optical scanners that check for seven different eye issues. It works for all ages, even babies, he said. “If we can get them to look at the camera we can get the screen.”
The equipment is sometimes loaned to Sunflower Diversified Services for early childhood screenings. “The sooner a vision problem is detected, the sooner they can get it corrected,” Wondra said. This can help with school performance and sometimes correct a problem early so a child won’t have to wear glasses later.
The device isn’t intended to take the place of a complete examination by an opthalmologist or optometrist. Those who undergo the screening – or their parents – receive a printout of its findings which can then be shared with an eye-care professional.