As magicians, musicians, firefighters and face painters converge on Pothole Park this Saturday, Tanya Roe is hoping for three things:
“What we’re saying is fun, laughter and healing,” says Roe. “Those are our three things we want to put out there.”
From 12 to 4 p.m., the park will host a children’s festival, put on in memory of two year-old Tobias McLaughlin, a local toddler who drowned at an area campsite earlier this summer.
Roe, who is a close friend of the McLaughlin family, says she was flooded with calls from other community members after Tobias’ death.
“Everybody kept calling us and asking, ‘what can we do? Can we make them meals, can we donate money to something?'” she says.
“But Eric and Meghan — they just need support. It was just hard. Nobody knew what to do, so we thought let’s hold a kid’s carnival in his name. It’ll be fun, it’ll be exactly who he was, which is a fun, happy kid. It’s a way for everybody to heal.”
The carnival will feature live entertainment, games and crafts, as well as food and kid-friendly vendors. While organizers didn’t originally plan to hold the event on the Summerlude weekend, scheduling conflicts required them to bump it forward from its original August date.
“It’ll be an extra, fun time to add to Valley Appreciation Day for the kids,” says Roe.
“There’s so many people around already, it’ll just make it even more fun on the weekend.”
Volunteer support for the event has been strong, Roe says.
Visitors to the carnival will also have the opportunity to purchase a $1 silicone bracelet that says “forever in our hearts” in honour of Tobias. Money from the bracelets will offset some of the carnival’s costs.
Though the festival is inspired by tragic circumstances, Roe says organizers “don’t want it to be a sad thing. We want it to be happy. We want to have fun and remember him as fun.”
“We want there to be lots of laughter and we want it to be healing for the valley, for everybody,” she adds. “Because it’s not just a tragedy for family and friends, but for the whole valley.”