Laughter and squeals erupted as adventurous souls scaled a rock wall and slid down a steep inflatable. Others sat quietly under the red and white tent eating ice cream after a turn plucking a duck from the pond, and the rhythmic sound of horse hoofs thumped on nearby grass as children clung to the saddle horn aboard police patrol horses.
Spring Lake resident Britta Tinney brought her children to the face-painting booth after scurrying to pick up their shoes from a nearby giant inflatable caterpillar. It was time for the single mom to sit, and slip back into her own childhood, by getting her face painted with a silly animal figure.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom with five kids and I’m broke,” Tinney said. “I told them we’d just come here and see if it costs anything.”
Tinney was pleasantly surprised to learn most of the Family Fun Night activities were free for her and her kids — ages 1, 4, 5, 7 and 10.
“This is somewhere where I can bring the kids and they can enjoy themselves for not a high cost,” she said. “I’ll definitely be back next year. Being a mom of five, I have to find activities to keep them occupied. You don’t find these kinds of things for free very often.”
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But Wednesday’s event that attracted more than 3,000 people almost didn’t happen, according to Spring Lake Heritage Festival spokeswoman Karla Constantine. After a day of rain showers, she had to make a final call by 3 p.m. whether or not to cancel the event since the inflatable game and horse handlers came from far distances.
“They have to know before they load the horses up,” Constantine said. “At 1 this afternoon, we didn’t know whether it would be a go or not. We got a little bit of blue sky — and by 3, I said, ‘We’re going.’”
Standing near fire truck and police car tours, and children battling each other in a fire hose game, Constantine said all the happy faces make the festival committee’s work worthwhile.
“I am very delighted with all the people that came out,” she said. “It’s such an economical evening for families. It’s just a great community event.”
The Heritage Festival continues today. For a complete schedule, visit www.slheritagefestival.com.