NORWALK, Conn. You might say Patty Kolkmeyer's empire has expanded in the two decades she has been chairman of the Norwalk Oyster Festival's Kids Cove. "When I started, it was about 10 nonprofits running booths like face-painting and ring toss," she says. Over the years, it has grown to become perhaps the biggest and most noticeable part of the festival.
"I started expanding it with a moon bounce the next year," she says. "Then we added a big slide, and it's continued to grow each year until we've got a full range of carnival-type rides. But the nonprofit booths are still there, too."
As the offerings have expanded, so has the Kids Cove's hours and clientele. "We used to close early, since the younger kids were pretty much gone by early evening," Kolkmeyer says. "But now we have rides for an older crowd, so we stay open as long as the festival does, weather permitting."
Kolkmeyer began volunteering in the festival's second year, making her one of its longest-tenured workers. "I started doing one four-hour shift," she says. "I liked it, came back and worked some more the next year, and it just kind of kept going and growing."
Kolkmeyer has added and expanded entertainment to the Kids Cove menu. "We've got something every hour, every day," she says. This year's featured act is Circus for a Fragile Planet. "We want to encourage children to take care of their environment," she says. "That's also in keeping with the Seaport Association's mission of protecting the environment of Long Island Sound."
So if the first thing you notice when you go to Veterans Memorial Park in September is bright lights of the spinning and whirling rides, thank Patty Kolkmeyer for transforming a small quiet segment of the festival into its biggest and brightest.
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