Children celebrate autumn at Kidfest

Robert Mayo ducked his head against Saturdays stiff wind and peered from beneath his black Pittsburgh Steelers stocking cap as he drove a pink-and-white little-engine-that-could around one of the softball infields at Pfitzner Stadium Complex in Woodbridge.

Behind him, in the open cars, mothers encouraged the children in their laps to wave at those who were on the ground with video cameras.

Everyone on the field came for Kidfest, an annual autumn festival for children between 3 and 8 years old featuring fun and games sponsored by the Prince William Park Authority.

For effect, more than anything else, Mayo, 27, leaned close to the steering wheel and leaned to the left and then to the right as he steered the train along a weaving path between first and second base.

“I call it my Kamikaze Run,” Mayo, of Sterling said. “It keeps them interested.”

“They seem to enjoy the train a lot. I think it keeps their minds off of how cold it is,” Mayo said as he put his hands to his mouth and blew on his fingers.

While children dressed as princesses, pirates and witches waited to board the train, others dressed as lions, elephants, clowns and Buzz Lightyear formed lines to try their luck at beanbag and ring tosses where they could win candy and trinkets.

Ron Newhaus, the park manager at Locust Shade Park, announced the periodic treasure hunts at the carnival.

As soon as Newhaus announced an upcoming event, children from every corner of the park converged on a ring of straw bales in centerfield.

Attendants tossed plastic spiders, pumpkin rings, key chains, foil and plastic wrapped candy, spinning tops and finger puppets on the ground amid piles of straw.

As the children watched, the keepers of the treasure raked the piles of straw to cover the goodies.

Parents had to physically restrain their children while they waited for the signal to start.

Charlie Christiansen, 4, was among the children poised to search.

As he waited with Karsten Christiansen, who sat on a bale of straw, he listened to tips from uncle Nolan Malone.

“If you have to deposit your loot, just run over here and put it in the bag,” his uncle told him.

When Lisa Herr, activities manager of the Dale City Recreation Center, signaled, Charlie and 30 other children dove in.

Charlie made a couple forays into the free-for-all and decided he had enough candy, but his elders were not satisfied.

“Thats all I can do,” Charlie said.

“No! Rush out there and get more,” his uncle said.

“Run to the middle,” his father encouraged.

“Get more, get more, get more,” his uncle said again.

Charlie went bravely back into the melee for another handful of loot.

Rachel Hook and her friend Shantay Thomas planned to visit the haunted trail after the Kidfest activities.

Shantay said she didnt expect the trail to be frightening. Rachel said she hoped it was.

“From what I hear, there are a lot of scary ghosts,” Rachel, 10, said.

“Im used to scary, but if you think about what might be there it gets scarier,” Shantay, 9, said.

The Park Authority will open the Haunted Trail again this evening at 6:30 p.m. behind Pfitzner Stadium.

Staff writer Keith Walker can be reached at (703) 878-8063.

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