Dozens of families packed into the Pine Grove Community Center on Friday, Nov. 24, to ring in the holiday season at the Manzanita Holiday Kids Fair.
Glitter, markers, paints and other craft supplies were strewn about a dozen tables. Each of the tables were hosted by a different local nonprofit organization, offering activities like ornament painting, printmaking and a photo booth. Santa and Mrs. Claus were there, too, asking what every kid wanted for Christmas.
The event started about three years ago, but it’s the fair’s first time back since last year’s tornado ripped through downtown, said Dan Haag, coordinator of the Manzanita Visitor Center.
“We weren’t sure what interest was going to be like since we took a year off after the tornado,” Haag said. But after looking around a room packed with people, he assessed it “looked like they were interested.”
The purpose of the event is to offer families a way to get to know different organizations in the area, Haag said, including some from Clatsop County like the Haystack Rock Awareness Program and Cannon Beach History Center & Museum.
Nestled in the corner was Meagan Sokol, the arts education director of the Cannon Beach Arts Association. Sokol taught kids how to make “whimsical shrinkies,” or more commonly referred to as Shrinky Dinks. Kids can draw on a special plastic that when exposed to heat will shrink the design more than 50 percent of the original size and harden so they can hang them as ornaments.
“I got the idea when I started making little hands with Shrinky Dink for the arts association — helping hands, I called them. I got requests to make jewelry with them and sold them at the gallery,” Sokol said. “Then the funds went to our summer camp program.”
Sokol hoped the presence at the kid’s fair would educate more kids and parents about the association’s efforts to expand its annual summer arts camps. Sokol, in her first year at the nonprofit art gallery, is working with the association’s new director, Cara Mico, to expand the camp to offer more variety in classes and scholarships to allow more kids to attend them.
In the past, the association has offered classes like watercolors, spray paint art and printmaking, but hopes to offer music and movement art classes next July. Sokol also plans to have a pop-up exhibit for the first time at the end of the program, which will feature all of the creations students worked on throughout the week.
In general, most of the kids left the fair with tree ornaments or doodles of reindeer. But Sokol argues there’s a larger picture kids are taking home.
“Art and play is how children express themselves, how they speak to us,” she said. “When kids do art, they are developing self confidence that they bring into adulthood. And that’s invaluable.”