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New Westminster's Family Day a hit

Children at New Westminster
Children at New Westminster's first Family Day celebration at the Fraser River Discovery Centre on Monday check out Mike's Critters. an exhibit with parrots, frogs, lizards and many other animals.
— image credit: City of New Westminster

New Westminster's family court committee had done its social media homework.

To promote its inaugural Family Day celebration, they'd hit the Twitter send key many a time. They created the obligatory Facebook page. And they put it on the city's website, as well as utilizing the tried-and-true, traditional method of advertising in the newspaper. But they weren't sure what kind of response their version of Premier Christy Clark's little political bone to the electorate would generate.

They needn't have worried.

When the doors opened to the Fraser River Discovery Centre, where the celebration was held, at 11 a.m. on Monday there were people lined up anxious to get in. It wasn't long before the place was packed as parents and kids watched demonstrations and performances, marveled at exhibits, got involved in making things and, of course, had their faces painted.

Organizers were forced to monitor the front door throughout the four-hour celebration to make sure the centre wasn't too crowded.

"They did a count and it was at least 2,000 people over the four hours," said Coun. Betty McIntosh, chair of the city's family court committee. "It was a really successful day."

She gave an example of the fishing booth, exhausted of its 400 prizes well before the event was shut down.

McIntosh said she wasn't sure how the response would be, but as they surveyed the scene Monday, city worker Ruby Campbell declared, "OK, this is working."

It wasn't just New Westminster families that showed up, said McIntosh. She talked to people from Vancouver, Victoria and Aldergrove who had come seeking something to do during the fledgling holiday in British Columbia.

"This is great for the Fraser River Discovery Centre. Anyone I spoke to, I said, 'come back when it's not busy and you'll see what it has to discover,'”  said McIntosh.

The committee used to put on the seniors family day in October at the Royal City Centre, but when Clark declared Family Day they felt they had to do something for February. Although some consideration was given to holding an outdoor event, McIntosh said the committee felt it was better staying inside. While it won't be open next year, McIntosh envisions the celebration eventually being moved to the Anvil Centre currently being constructed Downtown because it will be capable of holding much bigger crowds.

That, however, wouldn't count out the Discovery Centre being part of the event.

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