Big Lick Kids Fest highlights importance of having fun and giving back

Shawn Nowlin

There is a popular school of thought on the topic of fun: “The more one focuses on it, the more they are likely to have.”

Many believe that no one is ever too old to have fun with their children, friends or family members. JD Sutphin is one of those individuals. A few years ago, Sutphin, the President of Big Lick Entertainment, wanted to create a unique event for kids to benefit other kids that featured outdoor interactive entertainment such as games, a petting zoo, a rock wall and bounce houses, just to name a few. On September 1, the Fifth Annual Big Lick Kids Fest took place outside of the Salem Civic Center.

“As a fundraiser event, I, of course, want to see it be financially successful, but it’s always been amazing just to see so many families actively enjoying themselves on site. It feels like its own little Disneyworld for the day,” he said. “Proceeds will benefit Child Health Investment Partnership (CHIP) of Roanoke Valley which can be a tremendous assistance in their day to day operations as well as special circumstances to their bottom line because they work with over 700 households annually.”

The best way to enjoy Kids Fest with children, according to Richard Lomax, is to experience everything at least once, in addition to taking pictures with all of the present characters. “My sons, who are four and six, don’t know much about Star Wars and Spider-Man,” he said. “Having them ask me questions throughout the day made my heart smile.”

Justin Morrow knew when he got out of the van that there would be enough activities to keep his five children entertained for several hours. Whenever Morrow gets a chance to get his family outdoors, he tries to take full advantage. “I have three daughters and two sons, all under the age of 11. I can’t think of many events that excite them the way Kids Fest does,” he said.

Prior to this year, every Big Lick Kids Fest had taken place at either Elmwood Park or Rivers Edge Sports Complex in Roanoke.

“We love having the easily accessible, free parking and more play space at the Salem Civic Center,” said Autumn Lavering, Director of Development for CHIP. “While this was a major fundraiser for us, this event also allowed our CHIP families to attend for free thanks to a generous sponsor. One hundred percent of our families live in poverty, and this provided a day of fun that they likely otherwise would not have been able to experience.”

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