As Joe Herrington looked at kids playing on the cartoonish-looking games he had built for North Oaks Church of Christ’s Family Fall Festival on Saturday, he said he was happy they were doing something that stimulated their imagination.
“I’m an old-school guy, and I can’t stand iPads and television, computers,” said Herrington. “I just think they’re rotting our kids’ brains. So, imaginative games like this, make them have to use their imagination to figure this stuff out.”
His sentiment may be no surprise, as Herrington has worked for the Walt Disney Co. as an Imagineer for over 42 years.
“I’m a professional dreamer,” said Herrington. “I like dreaming. I like trying to come up with things that the kids will like and I do the same thing in my classroom. I’ve got a Bible class that I teach… and it’s full of games to it. There are different kinds of games, but they’re review games. So we tell the story and then they play the games to solve the questions.”
The games kids were playing all required some imagination, or were just straight out of a cartoon, such as the strongman game – in which kids had to slam an anvil with a sledgehammer to earn tickets.
The other games, however, were more unique: One involved launching a bean bag into the air and then catching it in a bucket strapped to their head. Another had participants slide weights down a wood slot until the weights reached the end – where they’d have to pitch the slot upwards and attempt to launch it into a bucket.
“[That] one is about depth perception. They never get a chance to really use their depth perception for anything, and this one causes them to have to do that. Some of these others like this, this is just hand-eye coordination,” Herrington said, pointing to the bean bag game.
Herrington also noted that he built in varying degrees of difficulty for each game, which attendants could alter based on the kids’ age.
“We’ve got a pretty broad spectrum of kids here and so we want all of them to be able to say, ‘I had fun doing this,’” said Herrington.
Aside from the games, kids also seemed to be enjoying what the rest of the festival had to offer – food, snow cones, a jolly jumper, and other activities such as a cake walk. For the adults, this was the first time they were able to have their festival since the pandemic – and many said it was a joy to get the community back together again.
“Particularly with COVID, where we were all getting shut in, now this can happen, something that’s back to normal,” said Ray Davis, family and youth minister at North Oaks. “In fact, I overheard a couple and they hadn’t seen each other since the last time we had one of these, and they were just shocked at how much their kids had grown. So you know, this is why you need this.”
Davis said although everyone was happy to see one another again, those who organized the event had some reservations about bringing the festival back but, ultimately, they felt it was needed.
“We were a little apprehensive because we just didn’t know how people would react. We hoped they would come,” said Davis. “Right now it looks like we’re a little smaller than normal, but you know we just said, ‘Hey, the virus is at a point we can do this again.’ Back when we had done our Easter festival in 2020, we had all the plans ready to go, and of course then came the shutdown that second Sunday of March. So in a way we’ve been lost without having this.”
Paul Johnson, a member of the church who was there with his grandson and his granddaughter, agreed that coming back together was important and that his grandchildren were having a wonderful time.
“We’re really happy. We weren’t sure what was going to happen with the neighborhood because it’s been a number of years. But you can see, we just started an hour ago, we probably got 50 to 60 kids here, probably 30 families,” said Johnson. “So it’s really good because we’re just trying to get the neighborhood [together] and it’s tough to have a safe place for kids to come. So this is all safe, they get to earn their tickets and then afterwards, we’re gonna have a trunk or treat, where the kids get to come around, they’re decorating their trunks and so it’s really good. I think it’s great.”