BY LORAINE ANDERSON email@example.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The line for the Traverse City Film Festival’s screening of "Shorts for Kids" movie event was as long as any other around town this week.
More than 700 film-goers — predominately young children accompanied by parents, grandparents and daycare providers — filled Lars Hockstad Auditorium on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
By 11 a.m. the mass spilled onto the lawn of Central Grade School to crawl through a massive cardboard “Crocodile Mansion,” make giant bubbles with a wand taller than many kids, try out hula hoops, create art and get involved in games and other activities.
“It’s our first time here and we’ve been loving every minute,” said Suzanne Gareiss, as she watched her grandsons Milo 4, and Cal, 2, crawl in and out the windows of Crocodile Mansion, named after “Victor And the Secret of Crocodile Mansion,” a German movie and the first of the four kids’ films to be screened this week at Lars. Tickets cost $1.
"The shorts are great for kids' attention spans and you can easily leave if you have to," said Connie Kerns of Acme, who attended with her two adult daughters and four grandchildren.
Muppets belted out “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” over a nearby speaker. Children and adults gathered as the Traverse City Fire Department's 1936 LaFrance fire engine rolled up to the curb.
The 11 a.m.-2 p.m. daily fest attracts about 500 kids on a “slow day,” and 750-800 children on a busy day, Kate Daggett, Kids Fest assistant manager said.
The Kids Fest, now in its third year, was an idea film festival executive director Deb Lake carried back from Tribeca, a New York City festival that devoted one day to a family block fest.
“It’s important for the film festival and the community to have something for everyone,” Daggett said. “A big focus of the festival is that this area is a vacation destination for the entire family. The Kids Fest also provides an opportunity for the filmmakers and entertainers to bring their family with them.”
She said the Kids Fest is a place where people of all ages can spend time and space together. Several older women in Daggett's church told her they like to book noon movie tickets at Lars to watch the children play on the school lawn while they stand in line.
In addition, many high school students volunteer to help with art, theater, games and other activities. Many elementary and retired teachers also volunteer, Daggett said.
Officials said Kids Fest's overall goal is to promote love of the arts and film, as well as family friendly activities.
“The film festival is really a big festival about art,” said Rachel Harrell, director of Drama Kids International, who helped with stage activities. “Kids can see how film is connected to all the arts.”
Deborah Hissong, a retired Traverse Bay Area Intermediate Schools instructor who taught deaf and hard-of-hearing children at Central for 30 years, was among Thursday's volunteers at Crocodile Mansion. No crocodiles were to be seen, but the place was crawling with children.
“I love the kids,” she said.
The Kids Fest movies and Family Lawn Party continue today and Saturday.