My 4-year-old son doesn’t talk much.
It’s not that he isn't capable. He’s just a bit more introspective and shy than the average kid.
On Saturday afternoon, after about three hours spent at the Prairie Days Parade and subsequent festival activities in the park, I couldn’t shut the boy up.
“That was awesome!,” he yelled at least a dozen times from the backseat as we traveled home from the festivities. “Can we do that I again?”
Why, yes we can.
There will always be critics, but from my standpoint as a relative newcomer to the area, and that of my half-pint sidekick, the 2019 version of Prairie Days was an absolute hit.
From the Friday night street dance to the Sunday orchestra and play in Yelm City Park, the volunteers who worked to breathe new life into the revised festival were wildly successful.
The goal this year was to provide a “free, fun, family event,” Yelm Mayor JW Foster wrote for the Nisqually Valley News in the weeks leading up to the extravaganza.
That meant no carnival rides in the park, a fact that might have been disappointing for some.
For this parent though, and many others, it was a godsend.
After three hours at Prairie Days, this thrifty father had spent exactly $10 on snacks and water. Imagine keeping the bottomline that low with expensive carnival rides and games tempting a youngster. I know others were likewise pleased with the arrangement.
“I can’t believe this is all free,” a mother said as she brought three of her children to a bean bag toss, one of many games offered by the Church of Living Water in Yelm. She held her pocketbook in her hand, adding that she had been prepared to pay an entrance fee.
Imagine the relief for a parent on a tight budget. No one likes telling a child “no,” especially when others are enjoying an expensive activity. By erasing all that pressure, I imagine the volunteers behind Prairie Days provided a level of joy for families on a budget that cannot be calculated.
While there were no ferris wheels or bumper cars, there was plenty to do.
My boy spent more time on the bounce house slide provided by Living Water than would be recommended. He’d probably still be there if not for the allure of a military robot that was roving the grounds throughout the event. It lured him away briefly, up until the point when he noticed the brand new play area in Yelm City Park.
Though fencing still blocked off the soon-to-be open splash pad, the city was able to open the news slides, swings and playtime apparatus that had been under construction this year.
What a great addition to the city.
We made sure to visit the build-your-own rocket station, took a stroll through the Yelm Farmers Market and took a few whacks at the Thurston County Youth Football League tackling dummies before finally heading for the exit.
We traveled home with so much candy from the parade that I briefly considered whether I could be arrested for trafficking in undeclared merchandise.
As I was putting my son to bed Saturday night, he quickly began recounting the day in what very possibly could have been a sugar-induced frenzy.
“Remember when we went to the parade?” he asked.
“Remember all the candy?”
“Remember that new park? I like that new park.”
We can go back.
“That was awesome!” he said once more.
I couldn’t agree more.
Here’s to making more memories at Prairie Days 2020.
Eric Schwartz is regional executive editor of the Lafromboise Communications, the company that owns the Nisqually Valley News, The Chronicle in Centralia and The Reflector in Clark County. Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com or 360-960-1615.