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Tribune photo by TJ Jerke Two-year-old Alexis Newman and her mother Cheryl Newman, both of Rochester, play Friday at the Kids Korner art tent at Sonshine.

Sonshine Festival in Willmar, Minn., schedules activities for parents and children

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As the Sonshine Festival gears itself towards 15 to 20-year-olds, a festival within the festival offers a place for kids to go and parents don't have to worry.

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With the final day of the 30th annual Sonshine Festival today at the Willmar Civic Center, the Sonshine Kids Festival continues to grow offering children the Kids Korner, a tent full of arts and crafts, as well as the Kids Festival Tent with an indoor and outdoor stage.

"We believe kids are important," said Randy Christensen, a children's pastor at Willmar Assembly of God and the kids stage director. "We want to provide positive message for kids to go down a positive path."

The activities at the Kids Korner and music tent are staffed by volunteers and hold events during the afternoon so they don't conflict with the main stage events in the evening, Christensen said.

Friday afternoon, Christensen, along with 10 youth members from the Assembly of God church, was setting up "Kids Group," an educational and spiritual event with games, puppet shows, magic and Christensen as, Simon the Clown, Magnificent Idiot.

"We just want it to be a fun environment," he said.

The Kayla Hannan Concert, a five-piece group made up of children from the New Life Church in Princeton, Minn., has been performing throughout the week with their upbeat music and dance.

Kayla Hannan, an asst. children's pastor, said the kids are part of a 30-kid worship team.

"We perform to fun music with some high-spirited dance," Hannan said. "The kids are great and have a fun time doing it."

Next door, at the Kids Korner tent, 2-year-old Alexis Newman and her mother Cheryl, of Rochester, stepped into the tent once the rain settled down to do some painting.

Cheryl Newman said it was her first time in the tent with Alexis and thought it was a great avenue for kids to take when they are looking for something to do.

"I think it's great to get away from the music and have some hands-on fun," she said.

The tent began after Jessie Kneprath of Willmar started inviting artists and displaying their work in 1998. While she presented, she found that her children didn't have anything to do, so she started the Kids Korner.

With Play Doe, paint, glue and paper, she encourages kids to "create chaos."

"I want them to be free and creative," said Kneprath, a mother of six. "I don't care what they do; I want it to be a place to explore creativity with no rules."

While gluing Popsicle sticks together, 8-year-old Nicholas Becker of Chanhassen was oblivious to his surroundings focusing on creating a masterpiece.

His mother, Donna Becker, said she brought him into the tent because she "knew it was something for him to do."

Kneprath said the Kids Korner is "a nice place for kids to relax" as well as parents. She said many parents come into the tent and fall asleep.

"The kids will come with or without parents and stay for hours," Kneprath said. "The nice thing is if they are here, parents know exactly where to find them."

Saturday's lineup for the Kids Festival Tent

11:30 a.m. -- Face Painting

1:30 p.m. -- Ben Christensen's Zany World

2:15 p.m -- Flash Mob with Kayla

4:30 p.m. -- Face Panting

Kid's Outdoor Stage

11:30 a.m. -- Kid's Gymnastics

2 p.m. -- Music Magic Mash!

3 p.m. -- Incredible Game Blast 3

4:15 p.m. -- Kid's Festival Finale

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