The magic of childhood

Kids from VS Music Studios perform at the Festival of Children at South Coast Plaza on Sept. 25 at noon | by Lizeth Tello

The Festival of Children occured at South Coast Plaza mall this September and hosted a variety of different charities


The Festival of Children was celebrated at the South Coast Plaza mall in Costa Mesa from Sept. 4-26. The festivities were held within the mall’s Carousel Court which held booths for 53 charities. This year the festival celebrated its 20th anniversary.


The Festival of Children first debuted at South Coast Plaza’s Carousel Court in 2002 and about two years later, the Festival of Children Foundation was born. Its purpose is to strengthen and raise awareness of local charities, like Colette’s Children’s Home and The Priority Center, that work to aid the children of Orange County.


“We work to assist charities, kind of on the backside, so we’re not necessarily out there raising money for them,” said Sandy Segerstrom Daniels, the founder and executive director of the Festival of Children Foundation. “That’s what they do best. We help train them and give them the means to do what they do better.”


The festival usually attracts up to 75 charities each year and helps expose them to millions of people. At the event, charities can gain new supporters and sometimes new board members. Booths were spread out and offered informational brochures and posters to any guests.


The Festival of Children not only works to raise awareness of local charities, it also is a place for families and friends to come together for a day or more of fun.


Passersby and shoppers came to attend the festival, most accompanied by their children. A stage was placed in the center of the court and every hour or so music and dance groups would come up and perform. Other activities, such as carousel rides and face painting, were also offered.


One of the groups that appeared on stage during Sept. 4 and 25 was the Premier Ballet School of Orange County. The school teaches children, ages 5-18, and focuses on classical ballet using the Russian Vaganova method. They also offer other classes that teach alternative dance styles, like contemporary and jazz.


“This is our second time performing here,” said Henson Shinn, owner of the Premier Ballet School of Orange County. “The kids are all, of course, very excited. They haven’t been able to perform in a long time and this is good practice cause we’re getting ready for our upcoming holiday show at the Barclay theatre on Nov. 27 and 28.”


Multiple things were changed, compared to previous festivals, to promote the safety of the guests and performers. Booths were not manned by any volunteers, who could answer any lingering questions about the charities participating in the event, like they did in previous years. A second stage, which used to be set up to allow for more performances and activities, was also removed due to COVID constraints.


Despite the differences, children and their families assembled from around the mall to witness and take part in the celebration. Parents and other relatives of performers also gathered to support their little ones.


“Well, I’m here to watch my grandson,” said Ira Gwinn, an 80-year old grandfather who came to watch his grandson, Julien “Ju-Ju” Gwinn, perform a number from Hamilton. “This is a fantastic event and I think it’s a great place for a young man to be.”


The closing ceremonies began at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26, which featured The Hi-Tops, and ended at around 5 p.m. The festival will return next year during the same month.