Orange County

Children’s Festival draws crowd at Northgate for annual Durham Arts Council fundraiser

Crowded around a table, Spence Dickinson placed mice, rabbits, chicks and even a snake into the outreached arms and hands of children.

Isabella Valles, 6, looked up at her mother before looking back at the black chick on her arm. The farm’s table was one of many vendors at the sixth annual Children’s Festival at Northgate at Northgate Mall Saturday afternoon. The festival featured booths ranging from government agencies like the Durham County Department of Social Services and Durham County Library to nonprofits and private groups. Children were able to get their faces painted or put glitter in their hair (commonly called fairy hair), visit with Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Spider-man, and watch various art and cultural programs on a stage. The event is co-organized by the Durham Arts Council, which uses the event to reach families while also raising funds for its programming.

“We work to bring people down to the mall and help put money back toward our programming,” said Lauren Whittaker, school director of the Durham Arts Council. “We hope they have a really good time and hope they get to see the services that are out there for them.”

Quincy Jones was standing in line with her 5-year-old daughter Sydney to get “fairy hair” while her husband Don and sons Josh and Lucas looked at nearby tables.

“I hope they learn something different about the community,” Jones said. “And to just learn about the different options available to them.”

Kim Williams was with her children Katelyn, 9, and Donnie, 4, who said their favorite part was seeing Belle and Spider-man. They’d stopped by the nearby movie theater to watch the new “Beauty and the Beast” and saw the festival as they were leaving.

“It’s just really nice,” Williams said. “We got to see what’s out there.”

Sabrina Sharpe attended the event with her sister and daughter, calling it fun and well organized. Their favorite part was the face painting and clay pottery.

“It’s a great thing for us,” said Northgate Mall Director of Marketing Melodie Pugh “We love giving back 100 percent of our proceeds to the Durham Arts Council. A lot of our individual tables are going to be taking donations to give back to the Arts Council as well. Northgate covers the bill to help support this great organization. And we are glad to do it.”