Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oh, baby, do families flock to expo: First-time event draws larger than expected crowds.

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Richard Schlaff had three favorites out of the day Saturday: the fossil dig, taking pictures and getting ice cream.

Richard, 9, was among the crowd of moms, dads and kids who attended the first Oh Baby! Family Expo, held at the American Legion in Jacksonville.

Temperatures hovered in the mid-80s outside where the Onslow County Museum had set up a fossil dig. Children of all ages could and search for shark teeth, coral and sea urchins, among other things.

Richard's father, Garland James, was glad to see an event with different types of activities available for his son.

"This is the kind of stuff that he's interested in doing -- something that's challenging for his mind," said James.

About 4,000 people showed up within the first two hours, said Terri Cone, marketing director for The Daily News and event coordinator for the expo. The turnout was better than expected.

"A lot of the vendors have sent out for more stuff, they're like, 'We didn't know it was going to be this busy'," said Dawn Rochelle, executive director of the Onslow County Partnership for Children.

The Onslow Women's Center set up a booth inside and gave away stuffed animals that had been donated to their thrift store to children stopping by the booth.

"We started with four trash bags (full of stuffed animals), we're now on our 11th one," said Megan Howell, sexual assault counselor and rape prevention educator.

The expo offered families information on organizations and resources available to them in the community. Along with informational booths for parents, the expo had several activities available for children such as face painting, a craft table, a reading corner and a balloon artist.

The event benefited the Onslow County Partnership for Children through sponsorships.

"I think a lot of people see our building on Western Blvd. and don't really know what we do ... We want every child to have access to our program so they have the opportunity to learn," said Rachel Nelson, child care resource and referral director at the Partnership for Children.

Rochelle said the Partnership for Children strives to develop and advocate for programs that optimize children's emotional, intellectual and physical readiness for school.

The Partnership for Children also had a booth at the event with a puzzle table, sand pit, kitchen play set, puppets and dramatic play clothes for children to enjoy.

"Parents appreciate that there are things for children to do," said Ann Marie Raymond, program coordinator with the Partnership for Children.

Rebecca Rodriguez of Jacksonville entered her daughters, 1-year-old Addy and 3-year-old Mallory, in the "That's One Cute Kid" photo contest.

"It's mostly for the kids, that's why I came -- to get them out of the house," Rodriguez said.

With more than 75 booths and a variety of family-oriented businesses represented, Rochelle deemed the event a success.

"People have been impressed," Rochelle said. "I've gotten a lot of compliments on the diversity."

Contact city/county government reporter Molly DeWitt at 910-219-8457, or

To see more of The Daily News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

Copyright (c) 2008, The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.

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Source Citation:"Oh, baby, do families flock to expo: First-time event draws larger than expected crowds." Daily News (Jacksonville, NC) (June 1, 2008): NA. Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Collection. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 24 Oct. 2009

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