Family Expo combines education with fun

Liam Blackburn (centre) suits up in firefighting gear with some help from Dwayne Neudorf (left) and Rodney Bilodeau (right) of the Prince Albert Fire Department. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

It’s taken several minutes, but 13-year-old Liam Blackburn finally has all the equipment he needs to fight a fire.

During that time two Prince Albert firefighters have helped him with buckles and straps as he gets a first hand taste of what it’s like to suit up for a fire. There isn’t a single open flame in the building, but nevertheless, he’s ready to roll.

“It’s pretty intimidating,” Blackburn says with a chuckle. “You put it on and you’re like, ‘woah, this is some fire equipment. This is what real people use to protect other people.”

It’s a fun experience for Blackburn, and he isn’t the only one enjoying his afternoon. On Saturday, he’s just one of hundreds of people attending the fifth annual Prince Albert Family Expo, which seeks to mix fun with education.

This year marks the fifth time the Prince Albert Early Childhood Council has organized the event. Council co-chair Donna Strauss says it’s an important way to give families an idea of what programs and resources are available in the community. However, it’s also about giving them an afternoon of entertainment too.

“This is an opportunity to showcase what organizations serve families and what they do, but also provide a little bit of a fun afternoon,” Strauss says.

Attendee numbers vary from year to year, but at its peak, the annual event can attract up to 1,300 total visitors.

Strauss says there are a lot of familiar problems in Prince Albert, like affordable housing shortages and poverty, which make things difficult for new families. However, there are always new challenges popping up to. This event is designed to help everyone keep up with the changes.

“We try to put a real emphasis on early childhood,” she explains. “People don’t really know the effects of what happens in that early childhood period, and that’s part of what we want to do: educate folks about that.”