Carnival blasts off in colorful celebration

Published 9:30 pm Monday, August 5, 2019

Suffolk Public Library Carnival Aug. 3, 2019 from Suffolk News-Herald on Vimeo.

Families in Suffolk celebrated their collective summer reading success with games, pony rides, crafts and a vibrant cloud of colors.

Suffolk Public Library held its Camp SPL Finale Carnival on Saturday at the corner of West Washington Street and Lee Street. According to Suffolk Public Library Communications Coordinator Angie Sumner, roughly 600 people attended the carnival and enjoyed all of its free festivities.

“What we wanted to do was create a community experience,” said April Watkins, early childhood services senor librarian and the library’s carnival team lead. “(We wanted to) create something where people can come out together and play, which is so important in the library.

“I have two little kids so I think about what they would like, and if they would like it then I try to do it here.”

Children enjoyed the bounce houses, relay races, tug-of-war and water-blasting fun in the grass. They competed face-first in a doughnut-eating contest with their hands behinds their backs and the doughnuts dangling on strings.

“O’doodleDoo’s actually donated the doughnuts that we used for the event, and Dunkin’ donated the prize for the winner,” Watkins said.

Kids played “pick a duck” and spun the wheel for prizes. They made their own handprint keepsakes with sand, flour, salt, warm water and sea shells, along with other arts and crafts.

“The kids are really happy,” said Nadya Lowder, 16, a rising junior at King’s Fork High School who earned community service hours by helping children make birdfeeders with cereal and pipe cleaners. “They’re really quick at making them. They also told me about their favorite birds and stuff.”

Children got to see some birds up close with Nature’s Nanny volunteers, including Starre the barred owl. They also got to pet pigs and chickens and ride a pony, all provided by Dobbin’s Mini Petting Farm.

“You don’t need to spend money to have fun,” said Chesapeake resident Geoff Reyes, who was with his wife, Mary Reyes, and their children Liam, 5, and Lana, 7.

It was a hot and humid day despite the overcast skies, but there was plenty of waterworks and refreshments to help attendees cool off.

Rowan Ellis of Virginia Beach-based Ka Art Productions had the advantage of standing roughly 9 feet tall in her mime makeup and stilts. She enjoyed some cool breeziness as Lana and other kids jumped up to give her high-fives.

“The breeze feels really good, and it looks like everybody is having a great time,” Ellis said as she loomed over everyone’s heads. “I have the best view from up here.”

She could see all of the children who ran under sprinkling water inside the rainbow arch between the two jam-packed lots. Suffolk resident Samantha Fjeld watched her boys Matthew, 4, and Mason, 2, laugh and spin under the wet rainbow.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Fjeld said about the library’s free carnival. “It gets the kids active, and also just excited about reading.”

Like last year’s carnival, the library offered the Suffolk reading community a prize if they read and logged enough books for their summer reading challenge goal.

Starting on June 15, readers had to log 14,000 books before the Saturday carnival in order to enjoy the “Color Blast.” They crushed that goal with 16,805 total books logged, according to the library’s Beanstack.org page.

Last year, the community got to see three library staffers get slimed, but this year’s Color Blast allowed everyone to enjoy the shenanigans. Elementary Services Senior Librarian came up with the idea so that more people could participate.

“I wanted to think of something that was still (photogenic), but (was also) something that the whole community could get involved in,” she said.

Participants gathered on the grass with cups — and eventually their hands — filled with five different colors of powder. Each color represented a different summer “cabin” team of library staffers.

The “Terrific Teal” Cabin of Watkins and Natalie Sifuentes was voted best by Suffolk readers and did the honors counting down. Then everyone tossed their colored powders at the same time. The scene became a dust storm of dye. Many of the participants wore plain white clothes to turn themselves into their own walking collages in the thick cloud of powder.

“It was really intense,” said Canna Brown, 15, as she threw more orange powder on her clothes. “I wasn’t really trying to have orange, but now I do, so I figured I might as well just cover my whole self in orange.”

The Color-Blast’ed carnival was organized to be a celebration for Suffolk readers of all ages. Watkins said it was a “great” success for her carnival team and her reading families.

“I love seeing my families that I work with in story time and programming, (who) came and were just excited to see me,” Watkins said, along with children she knows through school outreach activities. “To see them all here with their families and getting to (be) engaged together and play and enjoy all these different activities, it was fantastic. I’m really proud of the work that the team did.”