Maple Leaf Festival brings families home and the community closer together. To some, it is “bigger and better” than Christmas. Maple Leaf Festival gives us time to slow down, enjoy a meal, a game, a parade and a week of events with loved ones in a stress free environment. Maple Leaf Festival is a holiday all about embracing the autumn season, relaxing with neighbors and slowing things down just for fun.
The festival does come with it’s own stresses: traffic and crowds. Luckily, we are a very friendly community and we’ve learned to leave early, make room for visitor’s and smile. As a mom with a toddler, the crowds can be especially hectic as my child’s excitement builds. The week of the festival can be a great opportunity for training in patience, manners and specifically safety for young ones. Take time to practice your family’s safety plan addressing stranger danger and what to do if one of you are lost. Parade day is built to support this type of drill; Carthage is full of friendly faces that set a less intimidating scene – perfect for public safety practice. If you do not have a family plan for public safety, here are some helpful tips to start from the National Missing and Exploited Children Website:
- Keep children with you at all times while in public.
- Accompany and supervise children in public facilities, including restrooms.
- Have a plan in case you become separated, including a pre-designated spot to meet.
- Teach children to look for people who can help, such as a uniformed security officer, salesperson or mother with children.
- Remind children to remain in the area where they become separated.
- Turn outings into opportunities to practice skills.
- Dress children in clothing that displays their first or last names, prompting unwelcome attention from people looking for an opportunity to start a conversation with your child.
- Leave children in toy stores or public facilities expecting supervision from store personnel.
- Attend a public event with a child if you feel you’re going to be distracted. Make other arrangements for child care ahead of time.
- Allow younger children to shop on their own to purchase surprise gifts for friends or family members.
In addition, I have a few other tips specifically for crowded events and activities
- Take a camera phone shot of each of your children as they leave the house for the event. If one of your children become lost, you can easily recall what the child was wearing or share the photo as needed.
- Remind your child that if lost, stay in the area in which your were separated or meet at the agreed upon location. Look for helpful adults, law enforcement, another mom with small children, or cashiers.
- Consider placing emergency contact information with the child. My favorite method is www.safetytat.com, a temporary tattoo with emergency information that your child can easily share. They can be pricey and need to be ordered in advance so some cheaper methods may include a sticker on the back of your child’s clothes or even a home style tattoo with a sharpie marker on the arm. Be sure that your information does not carry personal information like a name, simply a phone number and maybe allergy or medical alerts are appropriate.
Finally, a few safety tips specifically for the Maple Leaf Festival parade:
- the festival committee prohibits participants in the parade from distributing any edible items. Remind your child of your rules for treats from strangers.
- the parade is well attended by law enforcement, upon arrival on parade day, point out officers to your children just in case they may need help throughout the day.
- also point out the barricades on the parade route, remind your child not to pass the lines and barricades until after the parade and only with your permission.
Above all, welcome to the Maple Leaf City of America and enjoy the Festival. The Maple Leaf Festival committee, the Carthage Chamber of Commerce and the Carthage Convention & Visitor’s Bureau work year round to make each year better than the last for families, the community and you.