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Kid power rules downtown Bangor this weekend

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Grownups in the greater Bangor area know how cool downtown Bangor is — but do kids know it? If they didn’t know already, they can get a special, kid-friendly introduction to the businesses and organizations that populate the downtown with the first-ever Kid Central Festival, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, May 7. The event is free for all.

Gibran Graham, organizer of the festival, saw an opportunity to cultivate the idea of community among Bangor area’s youngest residents.

“Downtown doesn’t always seem to hold a lot of interest for kids, aside from the [Maine] Discovery Museum,” said Graham, who is a father of a 13-year-old. “I want to make sure that we have a culture within our downtown that is open and friendly to all ages, not just adults, so that when those kids are adults, they’ll want to stay downtown and build the community.”

To that end, Graham approached downtown businesses with his plan to offer events aimed at people ages 12 and younger. Each business was encouraged to create a kid-friendly event that would reflect, in some way, what that business is all about.

“Some parents may think that these businesses aren’t places where kids would go, but that’s definitely not the case,” said Graham. “I think parents and kids alike will be surprised by how welcoming a lot of downtown really is.”

Events at businesses include Root Beer Making 101 at Central Street Farmhouse, T-shirt making at Bella Luna on Main Street, face and body painting at Blind Faith Tattoo on Central Street, a build-your-own cannoli workshop at Giacomo’s on Hammond Street, a make-your-own jewelry workshop at Maine Jewelry and Art on Harlow Street, a tie-dyeing workshop at Metropolitan Soul on Main Street, felting for kids at One Lupine Fiber Arts on Park Street, a kids’ photo shoot session at Studio 36 on Park Street, and an explosion box scrapbook album workshop at This Handmade Life, also on Park Street.

“This is all fun, unique stuff that both parents and kids are really going to enjoy,” said Graham. “How often would you ever get the chance to make your own root beer? Kids might not think they’d want to go to a place like Central Street Farmhouse, but that’s definitely not the case.”

That’s not all, however. A book-signing session with author Lynn Plourde and music with Judy Fricke will be offered at The Briar Patch on Central Street. The Kid Central Festival coincides with Free Comic Book Day, so Top Shelf Comics, also on Central Street, will have free comics for kids and grown-ups alike. The University of Maine Museum of Art on Harlow Street will offer a scavenger hunt and activities in the gallery all day. There also will be a special kid-friendly tour of the Great Bangor Fire of 1911 exhibit at 73 Central St. The Bangor Public Library has an original print of the Declaration of Independence on display, and will hold a book sale as well.

Kid Central Festival headquarters is at Bagel Central on Central Street, where Graham has a number of events planned.

“We’ll have a bunch of games set up for kids to play, as well as giveaways and a superhero costume contest. We’ve also got some cartoonists and illustrators on hand,” said Graham. They include the Bangor area’s own Josh Alves, D.S. Edwards of Bridgton and comic artists Renee De Liz and Ray Dillon, who just illustrated a comic book adaptation of Peter Beagle’s classic book “The Last Unicorn.”

Finally, the big event of the day is set for Norumbega Parkway, the grassy area on the bridge in between Franklin Street and Central Street. Area children’s music group Julie and the Bug Boys  will perform, Tony the Bug Guy will give a live animal demonstration and My Gym in Brewer will set up tumbling mats. If it rains, most of these events will move indoors to the headquarters at Bagel Central.

“The response has been great, and I already know we’re going to do it again next year,” said Graham. “It’s just a whole lot of fun for everybody.”

For a full schedule of all Kid Central Festival events, visit http://kidcentralfest.com. All events are free and open to the public.

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