Toy weapons banned from Pennsylvania arts festival

AP News
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Posted: Jan 14, 2015 11:15 AM

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Toy weapons have been banned from a Pennsylvania arts festival where kids sell handmade arts and crafts because organizers believe it's a step needed to combat the "especially violent times" in which we live.

This summer's Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts will include a Youth Day on July 8, when kids 8 to 18 are invited to sell their wares on the sidewalks of downtown State College.

Top weapons — including rubber band guns, light sabers and anything that launches a projectile — will not be permitted, the Centre Daily Times (http://bit.ly/1AWRmXp) reported Wednesday.

"We live in especially violent times," executive director Rick Bryant said in a statement. "Banning the sale of weapons at the Children and Youth Sidewalk Sale might not be a giant step in making our society less violent, but it's a step that we can take."

Bryant said the group's board of directors voted in November to impose the ban, after some children didn't heed past warnings not to "fire" toy weapons at past festivals.

"Kids want to demonstrate them, and boys will be boys," Bryant said.

But some say the ban is too much, including Mike Reinert, of Patton Township, whose son has built ping pong ball catapults that have drawn large crowds in recent years.

"I understand they want to be careful and not encourage weapons and violence, so I can try to appreciate their position," Reinert said. "On the other hand, we have a military that uses them and is violent just so we can have this conversation."

And some of the "boys who will be boys" are girls, who are disappointed, too.

Alex Straka, of State College, said she's "heartbroken" she won't be able to sell bows and arrows she's made.

"It has taught me to apply what I've learned in science and it has also helped me to continue to improve my marketing skills that I've learned from selling cookies through the Girl Scouts," Straka said, adding kids can have "a safe and fun time" with toy weapons provided they're properly instructed and supervised.

A petition has begun to overturn the ban, but Bryant is undaunted.

"Perhaps some people would feel different if I asked them to have 1,000 kids over at their house," Bryant said. "We're doing an outdoor event and it behooves us to exercise some caution to do that."

The festival runs July 9-12.

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Information from: Centre Daily Times, http://www.centredaily.com