Despite being at the annual event for barely more than an hour, Luke’s father Jason Schoolmester was already carrying the exhausted toddler across his left shoulder.
“It’s kind of fun overload,” Schoolmester said with a laugh.
The Oxford father and his son were but two of the thousands who ignored the hot, humid weather to enjoy the event, which included the annual Sunny King Criterium bicycle races.
For Schoolmester, Saturday was the fourth time he and his family had attended the event and this year was not a disappointment.
“It looks like there is a little more kid stuff this year,” he said. “And we always really like getting the chance to taste from local restaurants.”
Each year, the festival features various vendors, live music, food from local restaurants, rides for children, arts and crafts and even live animal shows, courtesy of the Anniston Museum of Natural History.
Just after noon Saturday, Kevin Jenne of the Anniston Museum’s education program department kept a group of seated children wide-eyed and enthralled with his creatures, including Madagascar cockroaches, an American alligator and a solid black Eastern Indigo Snake, an animal indigenous to Alabama.
“They live in south Alabama, but they are in danger of becoming extinct,” Jenne said of the snake, which is not poisonous and eats eggs and even other types of snakes.
After letting a few of the braver kids touch the snake, Jenne said this year’s festival was shaping up to be at least as good as last year’s.
“Our program turned out about the same, which is pretty good,” he said. “And I know it is really hard to find a parking space around here right now.”
Oxford residents Ricardo Amaral and his wife Lorena said they have enjoyed coming to the festival the last three years.
“It’s one of the greatest events in the community,” Ricardo said.
Lorena said she enjoys coming mainly to help raise money for Relay for Life.
“I work with people who set up a booth here and we try to raise awareness for cancer,” she said. “Plus the food is good and the festival is great for the kids.”
For Pensacola, Fla., resident Prentiss Berry, Saturday would be the first time he would race in the Sunny King Criterium, despite being a cyclist for about 25 years.
“I heard about it from my son who did it last year,” Berry said while preparing for one of the Criterium’s amateur races. “He said it was fast and well-organized.”
Berry said he and other cyclists enjoy racing because they enjoy being competitive.
“We all love to ride bikes to begin with, but there is something about having that competitive spirit … it’s nice to be in an event where they have the streets closed off and there are officials,” Berry said.