Youth from across the area proved Thursday that children really do have more fun. Beginning with the junior prince and princess crowning and ending with the kiddie parade downtown, children were the focus of this year's Willmar Fests.
Ethan Roux, 8, son of Todd and Sonia Roux, and Addy DeKraai, 8, daughter of Tamara and Rob DeKraai, were crowned junior prince and princess, after randomly opening a special box with a coin inside during the coronation ceremony. Ethan and Addy will represent the city in other festival events throughout the weekend and in parades both this summer and next.
"It feels good," Ethan said. "I'm excited to be in all the parades."
Addy was also enthusiastic about her new role as junior princess.
"It's cool," she said. "It was a surprise because my mom entered me."
Four boys and 16 girls were candidates for the junior royalty.
The annual kiddie parade also took place, with more than 200 children ages 12 and under participating. There were four categories for the parade: floats, wheels, pets and costumes, with prizes awarded for the top three entries in each category.
Some children rollerbladed or rode their scooters, others rode on floats with their friends and some just walked, dressed in an assortments of costumes.
Adam Ziebarth, 10, sported a soccer uniform and rode in the float "World Cup-Sized Fun," decorated as a soccer field. His goal for the parade? To win some prize money.
"I like winning!" Adam said, adding that one of his floats won first place in the kiddie parade two years ago.
Karl Olsen, 9, also had similar thoughts on his mind.
"I'm in it for the money," Karl said. "We might win the prize."
Dressed in traditional Norwegian clothes, Karl walked with a group holding the sign "5th Generation Norwegian Immigrants." This was their first year in the kiddie parade.
First-place kiddie parade entries were awarded $25 and the option of riding in the grand day parade on Saturday. Second-place winners received $20 and third place $15.
Some children, though, preferred the chance to dress up over winning the prize money.
"My favorite part is about being dressed up," said Ayva Fultz, 7, who wore a multicolored '80s-style skirt that her mother made. She and her friends rode on a rock band float with a sign that read, "We may not be '80s babies like our moms, but we can still rock."
The royalty candidates and the Willmar High School marching band also participated in the kiddie parade.
"(The parade) is something fun that the kids really look forward to," said Deb Willis, kiddie parade chairwoman for Willmar Fests. "Even the adults I talk to have fun seeing the kids in the parade."
The grand day parade will begin Saturday at 10:30 a.m., following a route beginning at Sixth Street and Kandiyohi Avenue. The royalty candidates will be crowned at 4:30 p.m. at the Willmar Education and Arts Center, 611 5th St. S.W.