Kids were treated to sidewalk art, bubbles, water balloon games, cornhole, face painting and more. There also were appearances by Shawn E. Bear - the Shawnee State University mascot - and the SSU cheerleaders, as well as a skateboard demonstration.
The museum also hosted a scavenger hunt, Main Street Portsmouth Director Zoe Richards said, with prizes for the kids. Other local organizations got in on the fun also, including the Portsmouth Public Library - who brought their bookmobile - and the Scioto County Sheriff's Office.
“We kind of were thinking of different things that we could do downtown to bring people downtown. We thought, what better way than to celebrate the end of summer with a back to school bash for the kids, because it would bring the families out,” Zoe said. “This way we can promote Portsmouth as the fun, family-oriented place that it is.”
One of the biggest hits early Saturday morning was Jenny Richards, a naturalist with the Shawnee Nature Center. Jenny was surrounded by children, waiting to meet and hold the three snakes she had brought with her.
“It's pretty awesome of Main Street to have the idea to put all this together and it's so cool to see all these kids out here on a Saturday. It's a really cool program, and I'm really happy to be here,” Jenny said.
She said she brought the snakes because “kids love them,” and she was apparently right. Anna Allen and her sisters, Molly and Abby, were very excited to hold the snakes.
“I think this is really neat that they set this up to bring the families out before they get into school and are consumed with sports and activities and other extracurriculars. The families tend to forget to hang out together,” said their mother, Cindy Allen.
One thing Cindy wasn't willing to share with her girls, however, was the snakes. Instead, she was very happy standing back - way back - while her girls got up close and personal with the reptiles.
“I love snakes. They're so fun to hold and I like to pet their skin because they're so scaly,” said 11-year old Anna Allen. Surrounded by cheerleaders, skateboarders and acrobats, little Anna said she was enjoying the snakes more than anything else.
“My house is full of a menagerie of things I wish weren't in there,” her mother said, laughing. “Since I won't let them have a pet, this is the closest they'll get.”
At the end of the day, Zoe said she was pleased with the turnout and was looking forward to next year.
“It was amazing. The museum actually sent over a production that they were doing - the kids were doing ‘Pirates of the Penzance' - and they did some of it in the streets for us. It was phenomenal,” she said.
Zoe said there were a lot of kids at the bash, but next year she hopes to coordinate with area schools to bring out even more.
Main Street Portsmouth is a National Main Street Community, formerly known as the Boneyfiddle Historic Preservation Society, focusing on the downtown and historic Boneyfiddle districts. The organization's goal is to promote the area as a destination to live, work, and play, while preserving its history.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, and by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.