Kids' Independents' Day

Melissa Kossler Dutton

Since its inception nearly a decade ago, the Independents' Day Festival has added and changed its offerings, always with a focus on artists and local business. This year, organizers are adding a children's area designed to be a hangout space for families during the annual event, which takes place Sept. 17-18 in east Franklinton.

Organizers want to entertain even the littlest attendees, said festival captain Patrick Locy. This year, the space allotted for Kids' Independents' Day has doubled, he said. Planners added the kID Zone last year when they saw many longtime attendees now have children and the event was attracting more families, Locy said.

"We realized we had nothing that specifically catered to our younger families-especially kids," he said. "We saw this as an opportunity to create a festival within the festival."

The children's area is intended to do more than entertain youngsters, said Ashley Baker, kID Zone commander. It's designed to give children the same opportunities for fun that their parents have at the main festival. Like the adult areas, kID Zone offers live music, exposure to the arts and the chance to build community.

"We really wanted to make sure that what we have for adults, we have something similar for kids: a child-sized version of what the festival offers," said Baker, a regular festival volunteer who took the lead on the kids' area after having her first child last year. Her 19-month-old son, Grayson Baker Starr, serves as "spokesman" for the kids' portion of the festival.

Last year, Independents' Day attracted more than 1,500 children, Baker said. Organizers anticipate more this year. "We want the festival to be family-friendly," she said. "We don't want people thinking just because you have kids you can't go."

The 2016 Independents' Day Festival will be divided into themed zones. The kID Zone was inspired by the Shazzbots, a local band that focuses on creating and playing music for kids. Bandleader Captain Captain's history, according the group's website, is that he grew up wrangling rhinos on his family's farm on the moon.

In a nod to that backstory, the children's area will be Moon Ranch and will have a lunar farm theme, Baker said. Volunteers have created decorations to bring the concept to life, she said. "It's all really fun."

The Shazzbots will open the festival on the kids' stage-which will have a barn backdrop-both days. The group is very popular with children and regularly entertains at central Ohio libraries, community programs and other events.

In addition to performing, the Shazzbots are helping plan and theme the kids' area, said Captain Captain, whose real name is Ian Hummel. Members of the band also will be strolling around Moon Ranch with puppets and interacting with kids. The band intends to do some impromptu rhythm lessons and skits.

Band members are eager to help festival organizers create an Independents' Day for kids, Hummel said. "That's what really got me jazzed-creating a space where kids can experience music and art and creativity," he said. "An area with the same vibe as the festival. We're just super excited."

The area is designed for children and parents to explore together, Hummel said. "It's definitely not a place where you come and drop your kid off," he said. "It's about families-getting parents to take part in activities with their kids."

Families can participate in a scavenger hunt that will take them throughout the children's area. "It will almost serve as a map for the kids' area," Baker said.

The Cooking Caravan, a local company that combines music and cooking, will perform twice during the festival. Chef Battle is a cooking competition where Caravan chefs enlist audience members to serve as sous chefs and judges. Found Sounds is an interactive program that engages the audience to help the group perform by creating instruments out of everyday items and making percussion sounds.

Pint-sized visitors can pose for pictures in the photo booth that will include a cow-wearing a space helmet-from Snowville Creamery.

Art opportunities will include the chance to create people and decorations for a dollhouse in the kids' area. The kID Zone also will feature an obstacle course and reading area, as well as spaces for changing diapers and breastfeeding children.

Baker said she hopes the increased focus on kids and families will please festival regulars and attract new visitors-especially from the Franklinton community.

"A lot of people think this festival is a group of hipster kids throwing a festival," she said. "That's not what this is. It's a group of people who are really excited to throw a festival for our community. We want to help revitalize this area. We're doing everything we can to build it up."

• kID has17community partners, ranging from the United Way of Central Ohio to the Cooking Caravan.

• More than 4,000 children live in Franklinton.

• This is the ninth year for Independents' Day and thesecond year for kID.

• The Shazzbots have played more than 500free shows.

• Last year, kID sold out of all of its 93 superhero capes in nine hours.

• kID is theseventh-largest zone at Independents' Day.

Source: Independents' Day Festival