Wilderness Trail Festival draws a crowd to help with Kiwanis charities

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The Christiansburg Chamber Ensemble, a group of Christiansburg High School students directed by Mani8 Steele, performs at the Wilderness Trail Festival.

The sun was out and so was the crowd Saturday for the 46th Kiwanis Wilderness Trail Festival in downtown Christiansburg.

The festival offered a little something for just about everyone. A food court offered Chinese food, pizza, ice cream, burgers and steak sandwiches and barbecue. A children’s area let the kids work off some energy on several bouncy houses and slide inflatables. A large screen let fans watch college football. The Community Stage offered entertainment all day. The lineup included a high school chamber music group, gymnastics, karate, cloggers, martial arts, ballet and other dance forms.

Festival chairman Ernie Wade said all of the funds raised by the festival go back into youth projects and the local schools. “Every year we look at how to improve the festival,” Wade said. “We look at what we did right and what we did wrong. Our goal is to entertain the people so they will come out.” New this year to the festival was a Home Improvement Row.

Ryan Pitzer, a senior at Christiansburg High School, gets in a little putting practice at the Wilderness Trail Festival.

The Kiwanis Club of Christiansburg took over festival sponsorship in 2009, according to Wade. Among the club projects the festival helps support are college scholarships, Kiwanis Park and school supplies and clothing for school-age children who can’t afford them

Each Thursday at their weekly meeting, club members pack backpacks with food. They then deliver the backpacks to the local Head Start on Friday, so children who get school lunches but would ordinarily go hungry over the weekend will have nutritious snacks approved by a dietitian to eat.

The club also throws a Christmas party for more than 40 local children selected in conjunction with the local schools. Club members go shopping, and then at the party, the children and their parents are served dinner. Santa arrives, calls the children to the front one-by-one and gives them their wrapped presents. As part of the celebration, the children join club members in singing Christmas carols.