Logan Nelson, 7, peered intently over his glasses at a rusted milking jug. He adjusted his grip on the coiled lasso in his hand and took a breath. A flick of his wrist sent the loop flying, but it landed just shy of the jug.
No matter. Nelson tried again, and a third and fourth time, too, never wavering. A quick word of advice from Cassy Cabrera of the Clements Buckaroos to swing the loop with just a little more heft seemed to do the trick. Nelson’s focused expression broke into a grin when he finally lassoed the jug. The Buckaroos and their booth of horse saddles, bridles and gear was just one group of dozens that turned out for the first Little Buckaroos Reading Roundup and Literacy Fair.
The event was hosted by the Lodi Public Library, the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership and the Lodi News-Sentinel, and organizers hoped it would entice children to see reading as something fun, and not as a homework assignment.
The fair started at 9 a.m. As of 11 a.m., several hundred area residents had visited the fair, located in the parking lot of the Lodi News-Sentinel downtown on Locust Street, next to the Lodi Library.
The fair included free pony rides, storytelling, free books for youngsters, photo opportunities, and dozens of informational booths.
Bubbles filled the air as Sparkles the Clown swirled and twirled a bubble wand amid a crowd of giggling kids who couldn’t wait to try it themselves. Bright pink, blue, green and orange balloons bobbed and wove through the crowd, trailing behind the children who held the treasures tightly by the string. A line for pony rides stretched across the parking lot.
Bethany Parsons, of Lodi, waited in the shade near the pony rides while her niece played in the bubbles. The 21 month old girl was excited to read with Fuzzy, the Paws to Read dog.
More than 100 people stopped by to pet Fuzzy, and a handful got a chance to read to the little Maltese.
Matteo Romero’s plaid shirt front was covered in stickers from the paramedics, firefighters, police officers and sheriff’s officers who showed children through their emergency vehicles.
The 8-year-old was waiting in line for a balloon with his mother’s friend Cassie Herman.
“We’re here for the books. They love books,” she said.
Nikki Kalthof brought the children in her family out to play for the morning when a letter came home from Larson school about the fair.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “We read every day at home.”
Every booth had some activity to offer children, from a simple obstacle course to stickers to games and coloring pages. Several had opportunities to hear stories or to read to a trusted ear.
“There are books in every nook of this fair,” said Cyndi Carter, Learning Link coordinator for the News-Sentinel.
Along with games, several booths offered information for parents ranging from identifying products with potential lead poisoning to tutoring and adult literacy classes in town.
“There are so many resources in our area that no one knows about,” said Carter. “I hope parents are walking away with a better understanding of community resources.”
Nancy Martinez, Lodi Public Library director, managed a booth with information about library programs.
“We want to encourage children to read, to understand that reading is a skill they will need to develop, and to be successful in life,” she said. Martinez was pleased with the ample crowds at the fair and says plans are already being made for another fair next year. This time the fair will be held in April, during National Library Week and Newspapers in Education Week.
“I’m surprised at the number of people out here, but then again, Lodi always supports our events,” said Martinez. “We may have to expand down the street next year.”