AETN's Annual Family Days Brings PBS KIDS to Northwest Arkansas

Each spring on the first Tuesday of Arkansas public schools’ Spring Break, Arkansas Educational Television Network partners with the Harvey & Bernice Jones Center for families in Springdale for Family Day with PBS KIDS characters.

This event allows families to participate in activities designed to educate and entertain all ages. AETN Family Day is entirely free to the public and hosted in the 220,000-square-foot Jones Center, which features an Olympic-size pool, ice skating rink, fully equipped gymnasium and more. Activities are planned around these Jones Center amenities and coordinated with the PBS KIDS characters in attendance.

In recent years PBS KIDS characters such as Clifford the Big Red Dog, Sid the Science Kid, Buddy from Dinosaur Train, The Cat in the Hat and DOG from WordWorld have made appearances. AETN offers attendees buttons, stickers, activity books, temporary tattoos and other great giveaways in addition to photo opportunities with their favorite characters. The Jones Center provides lunch for everyone, inflatable bounce houses and materials for activities. This annual event is promoted in AETN and Jones Television broadcasts, and all photos from the event are posted to and are available for download.

Family Day was purposely planned one year to be located in the area of the state with the largest Latino population. During Family Day planning, AETN discovered that the majority of Northwest Arkansas was underserved, which cemented the decision to locate this free event in this region of the state, thus allowing AETN to extend its accessibility and outreach. The goal of Family Day is to offer children on spring break an alternative to usual spring break activities or sitting on the couch. AETN partnered with the Jones Center primarily because of a similar mission to serve family and community, as well as to educate and enrich the lives of Arkansans. The Jones Center was a natural and wonderful partner, especially with a facility that can accommodate the volume of people that this event draws.

AETN's Family Days attract approximately 5,000 children and their families annually, providing them with opportunities they couldn't have gotten anywhere else. Many of the families in attendance drive two hours or more just so their children can meet their favorite characters. Many of the attendees see a side of AETN they’ve never seen before. Through these Family Days, many people discover that AETN creates much more than television programs.

The partnership between the Jones Center and AETN has developed over several spring breaks, with the intention of working together for many more years. AETN’s education department is also working with the center to produce summer camps and community education opportunities in coming months.

“AETN approached us about partnering with us on Spring Break Week, and let me tell you, AETN came on board with a great staff and a great plan to engage our kids and a lot of different activities. The PBS characters came, and we had five or six wonderful characters who engaged our kids in fun activities, and we had cross promotion. Bob the Builder did building projects and Angelina Ballerina did dancing projects. We’re right by the airport, so Jay Jay the Jet Plane was a big hit with our kids. But not only the characters, but the care and concern AETN's staff took with our patrons. And how they understood them, even though they’re based in Conway and Little Rock area, they understood our viewers in Northwest Arkansas, what they’re needs were. It was great to see an outreach to this area and have people really be able to talk to the AETN executives and staff about what they see in their programming and what they want to see in their programming. I can't wait to have them back next year.” — Tyler Clark, Youth Coordinator, Jones Center for Families, Springdale, Ark.

It’s obvious that AETN and the Harvey & Bernice Jones Center for Families are an unmatched pair in reaching out to the community, and future joint endeavors are expected to continue to appeal to and benefit Arkansans of all ages.