Children explore, learn at Kidsfest

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Blake Welch, 12, said Saturday morning’s canoe trip on the pool at Ellis-Porter Riverside Park was “good”.

Paddling a canoe can be difficult, especially when parents are there to advise you on the process. And canoeing topped his list of things he experienced on Saturday at the annual Kidsfest and Bass Pro Shops Outdoor Days. Always ready to try new things, Welch looked around for other challenges that lay ahead – maybe a bouncy bass.

Standing next to him, 6-year-old Samantha Suchanek said she did other things at the event that she found more fun – a pony ride, for example.

“It’s way up there,” she said, pointing to the top of the hill, past the hordes of revelers spilling out into the park.

Vendors fanned out across the park early in the morning, setting up spaces where children could play games and create crafts. Bass Pro Shops has set up an inflatable “fishing hole” and an inflatable bass slide, as well as two inflatable inflatable bass.

Jessica Hayes, manager of partnerships and conservation programs for Bass Pro Shops, said the company brought an invasive species project from the University of Missouri School of Natural Resources, which informs Missourians about the carp initiative, called Eat MO Carp.

Mark Morgan, an MU researcher, served free carp nachos to passers-by during the event.

People brought carp from China to Arkansas in the 1970s to solve some water quality problems, Morgan said. However, the fish escaped into the Mississippi River during flooding and have now spread and “wildly repopulated”, he said. They are now threatening to enter the Great Lakes.

“It’s become a huge environmental issue,” Morgan said. “We spent $12 billion to $15 billion electrifying canals around Chicago to keep fish out of Lake Michigan.”

There are now more carp in the United States than in China, he said.

“It’s a threat to the Midwest. It’s a ticking time bomb that’s going to explode,” he said. “We have to find solutions.”

Preventing their spread is good, he said, but we also need to find ways to reduce their numbers.

Some fish processors send carp back to China as fish products.

Eating is one of the things Americans enjoy doing best, he said.

“We can clear ourselves of virtually any problem,” Morgan said. “If we can do it that way, with spices and seasonings, you might not know what you’re eating.”

So, he says, eat more carp.

The Conservation Federation of Missouri also participated in the event, Hayes said. The federation organized in 1935 to remove conservation from the policy, according to the organization’s website. He lobbies Jefferson City to ensure Missouri remains a state leader in conservation policies and funding. The organization is the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation.

Organizers said more than 70 vendors attended the event this year.

New this year is the Kansas City Chiefs Training Lab, a mobile lab offering interactive activities.

“The Chefs Training Lab…will help visitors understand that our mental, physical and social health plays a vital role in leading a happy life,” according to chiefs.com. “The Chiefs workout lab will start by warming you up to ‘Let’s Get Moving,’ where a member of the Chiefs fitness team will work with you on exercises you can do at home.”

Lines to enter the lane extended down the east side of the park. Nearby, a long line of people also waited to visit MU Health Care’s Life Flight Helicopter.

The Bubble Bus returned this year and moved to the same site as last year. The bus is a St. Louis-based bus that goes to events and just blows bubbles. All shapes and sizes of bubbles. Interconnected bubbles. Massive bubbles. Billions of bubbles.

Employee t-shirts feature the slogan — “Peace, love, bubbles.”

And when there are bubbles in the air, the children come running.

For four hours, Bubble Bus staff provided a steady stream of… well, bubbles.

Jessica Green, of Jefferson City, said she needs to take her kids to other activities first, “because they’ll be in the bubbles the rest of the time.”

“I learned that the first time – find the bubbles last,” she continued. “They also liked Freshwater Church. It’s like a theme. You can build a boat and then race your boat. You can build a compass necklace.”

Londyn Green, nine, said she made a compass necklace.

“The compass actually tells you where to go. When we got to the bubbles, it would tell me how to get to the bubbles and where they were,” Green said.

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