Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week of the Young Child Family Fun Day

Lily Roberson, 3, leaps through the first hoop on an obstacle course during Family Fun Day on Saturday, April 21, 2012, in Festival Plaza Park in Nacogdoches, Texas. Hosted by the Stephen F. Austin Early Childhood Lab and Greater East Texas Community Action Program Head Start, the day featured games and entertainment for the community in honor of the annual Week of the Young Child, April 22-28. 

Attending local celebrations is one of the best aspects of my job as a photojournalist. So much of what I do on a daily basis revolves around bad things: Accidents, fires, arrests. Basically people involved in what arguably could be one of the worst days of their lives.

But the local celebrations, when members of the community come together for a day of fun, is just that - fun. Watching kids being kids, playing at what ever games there are to play, lets me just relax into the moment and make good images. Equally enjoyable is watching the adults - parents, grandparents, whoever - as they watch the fun going on around them, watching the kids in just pure, raw enjoyment, is just as fun.

That brings us to Lily (above). It was a typical Saturday and local educators joined with the city of Nacogdoches to kick off the annual Week of the Young Child celebration. I can't say it any better than this, so directly from the website is this description of the event nation-wide:

"The Week of the Young Child™ is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The purpose ... is to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs."

Not a bad plan, eh? A lot of people spend a lot of time and effort complaining about the state of education in this country. I'm not going to debate that here. Yeah, there are problems with education. There are bad teachers, just like there are bad journalists, bad cops, bad politicians, bad bankers, bad (insert profession of your choice here).

But there are also amazing, dedicated, selfless, unbelievable teachers and schools in this country, places where the passion for teaching, for sharing knowledge, for seeing the light of understanding in a student's eye, are paramount. I firmly believe they are the rule, rather than the exception.

A little bit more about the photo: I arrived at the event, fresh on the heels of the San Jacinto Day recognition with the Daughters of the Texas Revolution at Oakgrove Cemetery in Nacogdoches, the final resting place of several signers of the Declaration of Texas Independence. As I made my way onto the Festival Plaza grounds, I did my normal look-around to see what was going on.

I arrived near the start of the event, so the crowd wasn't huge. But it was obvious there was a mess of fun being had at the different stations set up around the Plaza. A local fishing guide had his boat parked on one end of the plaza with kids climbing all over. At the other end, the Plaza stage rang with the high, piping voices of youngsters singing a variety of songs.

And, right in the middle, were a series of games, including the obstacle course Lily is running in the image that prompted this post. I figured this would probably make some cute images, so I got myself positioned at the finish line end of the course. There were actually two identical courses set up side-by-side.

Kids weren't just lining up to run the course, but it was a pretty steady crowd. I decided either a child climbing out of the flexible tunnel, just visible behind Lily in the image, or the hoop rings would make the best image. A couple of kids made their way through the course before it was Lily's turn, but I didn't have a clear shot of their faces. No joy there.

Then, Lily started her run. I fired off a few frames as quickly as I could. I'd like to say I knew I had the image as soon as I shot it, but I can't. That happens, but not often. It wasn't until I got back to the office later and was sorting through my image files when this photo jumped out.

Initially shot in the horizontal, I made the call to crop the image to a vertical to focus attention on Lily and frame her better within the hoops. Ideally, I would have shot from just a little bit more to the left, but it was the intensity on her face and her hard-charging stance which sold me on the photo as my leader for the event coverage.

This shot didn't make the front page, but it did run large on an inside color page along with a second shot from event. And this image and more are available on the newspaper website,

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