Some of the events change from year to year, but the main focus of Family Day at the Tillsonburg Community Centre has never wavered.
"The three pieces we always try to hit are 'fun, local and affordable,'" said Brent Shepherd, a member of the Family Day committee, preparing for the annual Family Day activities on Monday, Feb. 20. "We're gearing up for it - it looks like it's going to be an active day. If the weather holds out we should have a really exciting and busy day."
'Local' is hosting the event at the Tillsonburg Community Centre, 45 Hardy Street.
"We've got a lot of really fun stuff to do, and we try to do it free," said Shepherd. "If not free, very affordable."
The only cost involved is the food. A pancake breakfast, generously donated by McDonald's Tillsonburg and cooked on-site, has been relocated to the (TCC) Tillsonburg Senior Centre, 8-10 a.m., and comes in at an extremely affordable price of $1/person.
Lunch is available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., also at the Senior Centre, sponsored by Gino's Pizza. It's $1.50 per slice, or buy an eight-slice family pizza for $10. Drinks (soda, bottled water or juice boxes) are 50 cents.
"We have a lot of the mainstays that we had last year," said Shepherd. "It starts at 8 in the morning and ends at 4 in the afternoon. We have free swimming, free public skating, and we have a free carnival with inflatables."
Some improvements were made based on feedback from last year's Family Day, which had more than 2,000 people enjoying activities at the community centre.
"That's how the whole thing started, listening to people in town. So we've listened to comments and feedback, and some of the comments said 'make it bigger.' But we can't make the facility any bigger... we've kind of maxed out the facility. But we've done some things to try to make things a little bit more easy to get around."
The free popcorn and cotton candy has been moved from the Lions Auditorium, where they have the carnival, to the corridors. There will be two machines for both popcorn and cotton candy this year, which should speed things up.
"And that will leave more room in the Lions Auditorium for the carnival."
Zilli Zi Zoo 2 Go returns from 9-4 in the Rotary Room in the Senior Centre (www.zillizi2go.com).
"Kids can come in and talk to the experts about the animals and have more interaction time with the animals."
Entertainment includes four 45-minute shows by Mad Science in the Lions Den - 9:30-10:15, 11-11:45, 12:30-1:15 and 2-2:45 p.m. (london.madscience.org).
"That allows for a lot of opportunities for people to engage the science show," said Shepherd.
"One of our sponsors, RBC, they've sponsored the skate a few times now, they are providing an opportunity to meet sledge hockey Olympian, Tyler McGregor. He's going to be there from 10 to 1. He's also going to do a sledge hockey demonstration, so that's really neat."
Donations can be made at the RBC booth which will be made available to youth through the town's recreational experiences program.
"It's to help people that are having challenges making ends meet and want to provide an opportunity for their families to be involved in recreational experiences," said Shepherd. "RBC has partnered with them helping to raise some funds to provide for those that want to be part of recreational experiences but have a difficult time doing so. It's especially focused on teens. There seems to be a lot of funding for young kids, but we really want to make sure all the age groups have opportunities.
"All the funds donated will go towards local experiences... so that's that local piece again. It feeds right back into this event, having a fun time with families which we're really passionate about, but it's also helping that experience go beyond just one day. So we're really excited to be working with them, helping them to achieve that goal, and looking forward to the possibilities."
It's a way to say thank you, he said, and give back to the community in a meaningful way.
Swimming reservations can be made online at tillsonburgfamilyday.ca. Swimming is limited to 150 people per time slot.
"We recommend people pre-register for swimming. A lot of times really ramp up in a big way as soon as we send the flyers to the schools. The reservations reserves your spot for 15 minutes at the start of the swim time. If they come after that, it's open depending on how many are in the pool at one time."
The RBC Ice Zone includes free public skating at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena 9-4, and Try It Sports, which has included curling and broomball, on the Colin Campbell Community Arena side, also 9-4. (Children must wear helmets on the ice).
The carnival, perhaps the most popular event of the day, runs 10-3, which will include a new element this year - a 'kicking' station, provided by the Tillsonburg Soccer Club.
"New this year, we have an old-fashioned parlour in the Marwood Lounge, because of the 150th anniversary of Canada."
In the other half of the Marwood Lounge is the Toddler Lounge, sponsored by Sonbeam.
"Everyone's just kicking in and helping out," said Shepherd. "We have lots of volunteers for a variety of places - it takes a lot of time and energy."
When you come through the TCC doors, make sure you get your wrist band, which helps organizers keep track of how many people attend on Family Day.
"It's a pretty simple way to do it," said Shepherd.
"The heart and idea behind this is to provide a fun, local, affordable experience that all families - no matter what shape or size - can be involved together on Family Day. That's the goal, that's the heart. I think we've nailed it every year and we want to see another year where all families can come out and have a great time, without restrictions. They can come in the morning, do breakfast and go skating and leave. Or come in the afternoon and go swimming. If that's all they want to do, that's all they have to do.
"There are a lot of things to do on Family Day, and we are not the only option in town. We just want to be one of the options and celebrate how great Tillsonburg is when everyone comes together, helps out and volunteers, and is part of a great thing together."
Sponsors include RBC Royal Bank, The Town of Tillsonburg, Zilli Zi Zoo 2 Go, Bethel Pentecostal Church, Cutting Edge Signs, Grand River Inflatables and Games, Hayhoe Homes, Knights of Columbus, McDonald's, Metro, Ostrander's Funeral Home Ltd, Sonbeam Christian DayCare, Station Arts Centre, Theatre Tillsonburg Camp, Tillsonburg Christian Ministerial, and Tillsonburg Soccer Club.
"Any time, anyone has a desire to help this day succeed, all they have to is reach out," Shepherd summed up. "All they have to do is reach out and contact us through the website, and we'll be happy to engage in a conversation with how they can help out."
In addition to Shepherd, the TCC Family Day committee includes Rick Cox, Sarabeth Strathdee, Chris Kelly, Nancy Boutin, and Jessica Melo.
"We're all wearing different hats and everyone does it on their own personal time," said Shepherd.