The annual Fall Family Fest at Waterworks park on Sept. 25 has been set up to offer kids a chance to play while their parents can search for community and family outreach programs and resources.
The Tampa Bay Moms Group held their annual Fall Family Fest for the fifth year at Waterworks Park on Sept. 25.
At the festival, there were several activities for children to do such as corn hole, laser tag, bouncy houses and more. The fest was held right by the splash pad of the park resulting in another opportunity for fun for the kids.
While the kids had activities to do, there were around 40 tables set up around the park with different businesses for parents to interact with.
Steffany Rodriguez-Neely founded this organization over a decade ago as a way for moms to connect in the Tampa Bay area and allow their children to have fun as well.
The event also had three food trucks available for families to stop by and grab snacks.
This event served as an opportunity for families to come and enjoy a day out together where their kids could play and the parents could gather resources and meet new people.
“We've had it for so many years now that people know kind of what to expect,” Rodriguez-Neely said. “A lot of our traffic ends up being returning families and then families that are new to the area because they know it's a resource event where they can connect with everything from pediatricians to activities for kids.”
Bethany Stripland was getting food with her husband and son at Armature Works when they saw the event and decided to check it out.
“We just moved here a few days ago,” Stripland said. “We didn't really know about any of these businesses so I would say we definitely saw a lot of new ones.”
Stripland not only learned about new businesses, but her son also got the opportunity to play with the games provided as well as in the bounce houses.
One business’ table was the Farkas Chiropractic Clinic which had Summer Edwards and Lilly Burns running their stand.
“We love to go to events to bring in more patients into the clinic,” Edwards said. “This allows us to see patients face to face, we can do posture screenings, get people interested and then we can also network with other vendors around here as well.”
The Fall Family Fest allowed the clinic to sign a few new patients from being there for a few hours.
“A lot of the people that we approve to come to the events directly relate to something that will either help our community, help small business owners or help families within our community,” Rodriguez-Neely said.
Over the years, however, the event has gone through some changes.
“It used to be much more Halloween themed, but there's so much going on in Halloween and there wasn't a lot going on at the very beginning of fall,” Rodriguez-Neely said. “So we decided to make it a Fall Fest where we're not just celebrating the start of fall in Florida, which is really unique because we don't get cool weather and we don't get the changing leaves, but it was a way to celebrate Florida's version of fall and the community.”
While there have been some changes, like the theme, the main concept that events are free for the public has remained the same.
“We always try to incorporate activities that are fun and engaging and are free,” Rodriguez Neely said. “That's a big thing at these events for us. We want moms and families regardless of income to be able to come and have the same experience and enjoy the same thing.”
The group started as more of a play-date group where moms could connect online, but this small group grew to the point where venues were required.
“The meetups ended up becoming so large that we would have companies approaching us saying, ‘Hey, next time here, you guys are out at the park, can we set up a table and pick out some samples so we can reach your moms?’And that happened to the point where we had so many people wanting to set up tables to reach our moms we needed a venue where this is the goal,” Rodriguez-Neely said. “So the point of our expos and community events like that is really to give mom a chance to meet up with each other.”
According to the groups' website, they have smaller events such as meetups, play dates, mom's night out and more.
On Oct. 30 at Westshore Plaza, the group is holding a trunk-or-treat which is free for the public.