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Kids Korner turns Sonshine into a festival for all ages

Asher Malek, left, of Morris, has a jousting match with Sebastian Valdez, of Willmar, Thursday in the inflatable games area of the Sonshine Festival in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR - Rebecca Taylor, 6, of Eagan, patiently waited Thursday afternoon while Jessie Kneprath helped her finish her craft in the Kids Korner tent at the Sonshine Music Festival.

Kneprath has run the kids arts and crafts tent at Sonshine in Willmar for the past 15 years, helping Sonshine become a place where families of all ages can be entertained.

"I had little kids of my own and I saw a need for something like this here," Kneprath said. "I thought it'd be fun, and it gives parents a place to go to take a rest and let their kids be creative."

Sonshine is an annual Christian music festival on the grounds of the Willmar Civic Center and nearby Willmar Senior High School. The first concerts started Wednesday, and musicians performed on multiple stages Thursday. Music continues today and Saturday, along with other family activities and vendors.

Thursday's crafts at the Kids Korner were melty beads and sand art.

"I give them the pieces to make what they want," Kneprath said. "This is a great outlet for them. Kids are so frequently told how to do things, and I am so amazed and inspired when I see what they create."

Amber Thusholt and her 3-year-old son Soren, of Bloomington, were creating popsicle stick art while enjoying the shade.

"It's my second time here, but it's our kids' first time," Thusholt said. "We thought it'd be a good, fun family vacation where we can experience the Christian music and the crafts."

Thusholt said her family had spent most of the day in the kids tent, but they had found time for other activities.

"We checked out some new bands that my husband and I wanted to hear, grilled out for lunch and had a water fight," she said.

Sharon Ricci, of Spooner, Wis., and her 6-year-old daughter Olivia were also taking an arts and crafts break while her husband and 7-year-old son listened to bands on the Debut Stage.

"This is our first time at Sonshine," Ricci said. "We're celebrating Olivia's birthday, and we'd always talked about coming, and finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and come."

The Riccis spent their first day at Sonshine taking in all the festival has to offer.

"We've seen some great shows, and we've been in the kids area quite a bit," Ricci said. "We're camping down the road (from the kids tent) and it's a great way to meet people. We've also seen a little bit of Willmar."

Ricci said she knew about the kids area before arriving at Sonshine and that it's a nice bonus to the festival.

"The kids area definitely makes the festival better," Ricci said. "It did help draw us here, but we probably still would've come even without it."

Olivia Ricci said the kids tent was her favorite part of Sonshine.

"It's been pretty good," Olivia said. "My favorite part of Sonshine is drawing in the kids tent."