Like flames dancing to the commands of the Torrington, Connecticut Fire Performers, an electricity and excitement illuminated the air during Main Street Market Place. Near St. Francis Church a fire truck demonstrated fire safety while a beverage truck sold fun slushy drinks at Water Street. In between these two book ends, the tops of tents gently rocked in the wind like ship masts while below the arts and crafts vendors displayed and sold the fruits of their labor. Musicians filled the night sky with harmony and good cheer as my son, daughter and I waded through the sea of festivities in wonder and exhilaration.
Main Street Market Place is celebrated most Thursday evenings in the summer when the weather permits and our first experience at the event this year had been spent savoring the great variety of food that was offered. This night my son and daughter turned their attention to the tactile enjoyment of the hands on exhibits in the Kidsplay children’s museum.
Nothing glows brighter than the face of a child who enters a truly fun children’s museum.
With a “smiley face” stamped on his hand, my son dashed for the bright blue water table where he remained most of the night, building structures and vehicles with mega-blocks. My daughter roamed to each activity, trying each one in her own way. She tried sending scarves through air tubes and catching them as they floated to the floor. She played the drums, rang a siren and rang the bell of the “fire truck”. Perhaps her favorite activity was standing in a circle while being enveloped by a giant soap bubble. Of course the bubble popped eventually but even when a bubble pops, a smile and memory have lasting power!
Kidsplay had a soft opening last year and over time has been steadily building and improving their activities. There is enormous potential for expansion, in fact there are plans for a phase 2 and a phase 3 and as it continues to build and expand it will become more and more important to the community. At present the museum caters to a younger audience but as it grows the exhibits and activities will speak to an even larger audience. The key will be in funding and that comes with participation and continued support in the community.
Kidsplay is not unlike the city itself. It is a work in progress and although there are great things at present, there is even greater potential in what lies ahead. Torrington can be a place for families, for friends and to those who find it, there can be a powerful sense of community. That sense of community can be found when friends share a meal at local restaurants, when families participate in places of worship and sometimes one can find that community online. If we are fortunate we can stand either physically or metaphorically in that circle of community and be enveloped by the common sense of positive purpose and that feeling can be carried with us in smiles and memories long after the immediate communal moments fade.
When Kidsplay closed, the children and I stepped out into fast paced festivities once more. We found an “Italian ice” vendor and the children chose lemon flavor. With our iced treasure in hand, we enjoyed the riveting dance of the Fire Performers, marveling at their mastery and artistic vision. And when the Italian ice had been reduced to an empty paper cup and my son wanted to move once more, we walked home with smiles and with very happy memories.