A day for the kids

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

On Sunday afternoon, a few hundred people saw Casey Whitlow belt out her rendition of Aretha Franklin’s legendary tune, &uot;(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,&uot; at the National Kid’s Day event at Peanut Park. But if the 13-year-old has her way, she’ll soon be performing in front of much larger audiences.

&uot;I want to be on ‘American Idol,’&uot; Casey said after the crowd thanked her with a long ovation. &uot;I saw (Season One &uot;Idol&uot; winner) Kelly Clarkson do that song, and I wanted to try it. I want to go on that show so I can be famous, too.&uot;

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She wasn’t the only local youth to show off her vocal skills at the event; Carol Ann Holland, 7, got things started with her rendition of &uot;America the Beautiful.&uot;

&uot;I’m getting a little tired of singing that song,&uot; admitted the Kilby Shores Elementary School student, who also sang it at the July 4th celebration at the Suffolk Airport. &uot;I always imagine all the people in their underwear so I won’t be nervous!&uot;

After she sang, City Councilman Curtis Milteer opened the ceremony.

&uot;Across the nation in small towns and big cities,&uot; he said, &uot;parents and children are getting the recognition they deserve. The order they receive might help them develop and become useful citizens in our community.&uot;

Mayor Dana Dickens read a proclamation commemorating the event, and the party started.

Across the outfield of the Peanut Park softball field, children flew through the air in several inflatable attractions. There was a Moonwalk, a blown-up slide, and even a ballooned basketball court.

&uot;I just wanted to bounce up and down!&uot; said Dupree Little, 9, waiting for his turn in the Moonwalk. &uot;This is great, because it’s boring at home!&uot;

The day was mainly designed for fun, but people like Jill Stagg of the Western Tidewater Community Service Board was on hand to provide education for parents and children. &uot;We want to bring the community together against crime and substance abuse,&uot; she said, handing out brochures extolling the dangers of smoking and drug use. &uot;Even at the elementary school level, you see kids mimicking drugs, like pretending to smoke. Our goal is to get to them and educate them at a younger age.

&uot;But we’re also here to support parents,&uot; she continued. &uot;Parents underestimate how dangerous drugs and smoking can be. We provide parenting classes to educate them about how our services are available.&uot;

Hey, what would a kids-oriented event be without the epitome of children trapped inside adult bodies, clowns? Brenda &uot;Daffodilly&uot; Brinkley and Diane &uot;Apples&uot; Bourn painted the faces of Suffolk’s youngest citizens.

&uot;We were invited to come and play with all these kids,&uot; said Bourn, a member of the organization Christian Clowns of Virginia. &uot;This is for the kid in me. I like to be a little artistic; sometimes, I even practice on myself.&uot;

Her techniques worked on Dequwanda Beamer, 9. &uot;I always get my face painted by the clowns,&uot; said the Mount Zion Elementary School student. &uot;I love the clowns – they’re so funny! We’re all having fun here.&uot;