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Fair gives families cool ideas for filling the hot summer days

The Baltimore Sun

They wore balloon hats, moon-bounced, slurped on snowballs, ate piles of cotton candy, watched ducks and stared at 10,000 pinwheels glittering atop Federal Hill.

About 1,000 people attended the Family Fun Fair yesterday, a free event designed to support families and give them activity ideas as the long, hot, school-less, potentially challenging days of summer descend.

The day was organized by the Family Tree, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect by offering classes and other assistance to parents and kids. The pinwheels on the hill represented the roughly 10,000 Maryland children who are abused each year.

"We want our families to keep cool and not let summer be another stress time," said Pat Cronin, the Family Tree's executive director.

Stress wasn't much in evidence on a perfectly sunny Sunday afternoon. The strollers were out in force and kids had traces of cotton candy ringing their mouths. They filled bottles with colored sand and made pinwheels and paintings. They touched a Madagascar hissing cockroach, ogled an Egyptian tortoise from the zoo, climbed on a plastic mountain, ran through a misting tent to cool off and sat in the shade listening to Latin music.

Families also stopped at tables set up by dozens of organizations from the American Red Cross to the Baltimore Museum of Industry, Fire Museum of Maryland, Girl Scouts, Irvine Nature Center, and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Everyone walked away with a gift bag filled with a toothbrush, sun block, a water bottle and a parenting sheet with tips on how to avoid stressful situations and planning family activities.

A call to fun

"I ate cotton candy and two blue snowballs, and then I went and got popcorn and I got a balloon hat," said Taraya Miller, 10, who was there with her grandparents, a brother and a slew of cousins. Her grandfather had just finished calling some additional grandchildren: "I told them to come on down here and let's have some fun," said Mark Wright, 51, of Baltimore. "Ten more are coming."

'Perfect' activity

Sara Weberman stumbled across the event while showing friends around the Inner Harbor. Her children, ages 5 and 8, had made a pinwheel, spin art, a sand bottle and a sand-filled bracelet, played with Legos and threw stuffed frogs at a target for prizes.

"For kids, it's perfect," Weberman said. "And it's free!"

She snapped a photograph of her son, holding up his handmade pinwheel, in front of the antique firetruck, then headed toward the moon bounce.

The Family Tree Stressline can be reached at 800-243-7337.

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