WEST MIAMI-DADE — The Children’s Trust of Miami-Dade County will hold its fifth annual Family Expo on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo Center, 10901 Coral Way in West Miami-Dade County. The  free event will provide parents with direct access to educational, health and social services in a fun and festive atmosphere.

The event, sponsored by Target, is the largest of its kind in the area, drawing more than 20,000 visitors and hosting more than 200 displays in two exhibit halls.

The displays showcase information about summer and after-school programs, injury prevention, vaccinations, programs for children with special needs, Pre-K registration and KidCare.

 Each exhibition hall will have two stages for entertainment and the fun will include face painting, balloon sculpture, stilt walking, magic and character greeting for children to meet Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer and Diego.

A special reading corner to be hosted by the Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership will offer storytelling and free books to take home.
The Miami Children’s Museum will operate an arts and craft area based on its new Mr. Potato Head exhibit.

New to the expo this year will be a “baby and me” playtime area for infants and toddlers, staffed by members of the University of Miami’s Families First program.

Other activities will include chess tournaments held by Stormont Kings and science education provided in the Whacky Wild Science Area.

Experience Aviation’s Barrington Irving, the youngest person to pilot a plane around the world solo, will provide aviation simulators for school-age children and youth to test.

New also will be Expo Greenhouse, where teachers in The Education Fund's Plant a Thousand Gardens nutrition initiative, will hold edible gardening workshops for children to transplant their own vegetable or herb plant and learn about how to grow healthy foods at home.

An indoors Sports Fun Zone will feature T-ball and speed pitching practice presented by Florida Marlins. Kids also will be able to practice their tennis swing and free throw shots in this area.

Outside, there will be rock climbing walls and elaborate bounce houses.

The Children’s Trust will give away free gifts to the first 2,000 children. Admission, parking, all activities and entertainment will be free. Food will be sold by vendors of the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition Center.

“In these difficult economic times, with so many families in need, an event like this becomes even more important to connect families to valuable services and especially in a fun and entertaining atmosphere that provides families with an opportunity to share quality time together at little or no cost to them,” said Modesto E. Abety, president and CEO of The Children’s Trust.  “At a time when most corporate sponsorship is diminishing, we are grateful to have significant, continued support from Target to allow us to continue this event.”