What’s so G-R-E-A-T about the 5th Annual Natural Family Expo?!

The Natural Family Expo is a FREE community event on Sunday, March 12 2017 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Monona Terrace.

One of the ways the Natural Family Expo sets itself apart from other expos is how we choose our exhibitors.  All our exhibitors go through a selection process and demonstrate that their business or organization provides a value to the community from a health & wellness, community-building, or education perspective. Every year we hear from attendees how thrilled they were with the exhibitors – and how thankful they were to network with these amazing local businesses

Family FUN is a major focus of the Natural Family Expo. We know families can feel “cooped up” this time of year. So we bring in bouncy houses and an inflatable obstacle course to help get the wiggles out. Walking around the expo hall, kids (of all ages) will find: amazing animals from Zoozort’s Live Animal program; a toddler/preschool activity from Madison Children’s Museum; a natural world exhibit from Also Leopold Nature Center; spectacular face painting; henna tattoos; and art activities and demos (such as glass pendant creation at Fired Up Pottery and wood block printing).

As another fun activity and an incentive to visit as many stations as possible, the Natural Family Expo prepares a Scavenger Hunt for families. Pick up a Scavenger Hunt form at the entrance, and then collect a stamp from each of the participating exhibitors.  At the end, you’ll turn in your form with our Scavenger Hunt sponsor, Hulafrog.  Kids receive an on-the-spot treat; and families are entered to win one of the grand prizes!

The entertainment goes all day as the main stage has a fabulous performance itinerary – complete with musical performances; Bubble Wonders’ bubble show; dance and martial arts showcases; and a babywearing fashion show – where parents strut their stuff.  WORT 89.9 FM's Pachyderm Parade children's radio program will be recorded from the Natural Family Expo main stage. This year's Pachyderm Parade line-up includes favorite children's entertainer, David Landau (performing hits like"Icky Sticky Bubblegum," and six-year-old violinist Declan Killeen-Toomey (playing a collection of Irish tunes in honor of St. Patrick's Day). 

Community-building and the arts are an important part of the Natural Family Expo.  This year we are thrilled to have Jenie Gao with us. Jenie is the artist in residence for Bubbler through February 2017. Jenie will be making presentations throughout the day to talk about her upcoming project that will take over the ceiling of the Children's Library library at the downtown Madison Public Library. She is creating a project there that involves two of her passions migration and the importance of migration and consumerism. Migrating birds will be created made from fabric donated by the community. The birds and the pattern for the birds will be on display at the Natural Family Expo. Jenie will be there to answer any questions and to tell community members how they can get involved with the project.

Jenie will also be showcasing her series of wood cutting on migration and the importance of migration for the birds and other animals. Finally she will have a wood cutting display.

There’s an app for that! We're very excited to feature a great app at the 5th Annual Natural Family Expo – one we can really get behind! The app is called 1myVote and it is a non-partisan voter app that informs users about upcoming municipal, state, and federal elections.  For each race, the app lists the candidates, each candidate’s 3 top issues, and a link to the candidate’s website. App users can find it the information they need to make informed voting decisions at the polls. To give kids an opportunity to practice VOTING, the Natural Family Expo will be hosting a fun faux “election” prior to the event and another at the event!  Stay tuned to the Facebook Event for more information! Get the app now for Apple and Android: http://www.1myvote.com/

Downtown Madison is really a family-friendly hub on Sunday, March 12 with three separate events:

  1. The Natural Family Expo at the Monona Terrace (10 a.m to 4 p.m.);
  2. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Madison’s Capitol Square (at 1:30 p.m.); and
  3. Fairshare CSA Coalition’s annual open house (held in the Monona Terrace ballrooms above the Expo(12 noon – 4 p.m.)

Last year, many families came to all three events!  Keep in mind, if you need a rest or feel like sitting a spell – there is awesome entertainment ALL DAY LONG on the Natural Family Expo main stage. If you need a quiet activity, visit our coloring stations.  Local artist SoulMama, aka Carolynn Schwartz, creates coloring books for grown-ups and is creating special coloring pages just for this year's Natural Family Expo!

The Natural Family Expo is free and open to the community thanks to our generous title sponsors: Blue River Chiropractic, Willy Street Co-op, Wildwood Family Clinic, Integrative Dental Solutions, and American Family DreamBank.

Additional thanks to our play area, stage, and media sponsors: Full Circle Natural Medicine, Black Belt America, Keva Sports Center, Hulafrog and WORT 89.9 FM.


Why the 4th Annual Natural Family Expo is Going to Rock Your World

As organizers of the Natural Family Expo, our goal is to make the event better every year -- and we think 2016 is definitely going to be the best yet! 

Accessibility is important to us.  We want the Expo to be enjoyed by a broad range of area families.  That’s one of the reasons we chose Monona Terrace for the venue.  It’s an easy landmark and centrally located.  It’s also on the bus lines and has plenty of nearby free parking on Sundays.  This year we wanted to go further – to make the Expo truly accessible - we wanted the event to be free.  

We worked extremely hard to find additional major sponsors for 2016. We’re thrilled to report that Summit Credit Union and Smart Motors joined the event’s other major sponsors: Willy Street Co-op, Blue River Chiropractic, Wildwood Family Clinics, and Happy Bambino.  Thanks to all of these generous sponsors, there is NO fee to attend the 2016 Natural Family Expo – it is free and open to the community. 

The 4th Annual Natural Family Expo opens its doors at 10am on Sunday March 13.  Earlybirds will get the worm! Those arriving at 10 will be treated to a welcome performance from Drum Power’s drumming students and be first in line for swag bags. 

The performances on our Main Stage kick off at 10:15 am when Cashel Dennehy Irish Dance performs and teaches a jig lesson!  This year we tried to bring in a number of fresh new acts.  So in addition to annual favorites – like Cashel Dennehy, Raizes do Brasil Capoeira, and Sparkle & Burn Hoop Dance – we’ve got comedy magician Nickey Fynn (runner up in the 2015 World Championships of Street Magic) and the (incomparable) Truly Remarkable Loon – juggler extraordinaire!  

WORT 89.9 FM will be live recording its Pachyderm Parade radio show at the Natural Family Expo.  During their show you’ll be treated to performances by Midnight Voices (an all girls all-star high school A Capella group) and Declan Killeen-Toomey, a 5-year old violin prodigy who - playing festive Irish tunes. If you want an encore, you can tune into to Pachyderm Parade that evening on WORT and hear the show that was recorded at the Expo!

The International Dance Showcase features three local high school dance groups: Nkauj Hmoob Madison Hmong Dance, Kioja Dance Team (step dances combining military drill & African Welly "gumboot" dances), and Hip Hop Movement. One of the area’s best hip hop dancers, Sage Kooy Buie will follow.  Did you want a chance to dance? We thought so. The audience will get a chance to wrap the show.  

A few other acts worth mentioning…The Babywearing Fashion show is back! This year’s fashion show is sponsored by Happy Bambino and organized/modeled by Babywearing International of Madison.  Preview the latest greatest baby carriers and carries. Finally, Infinity Martial Arts’ showcase team seriously blew our minds – so much so that we pre-scheduled an encore performance at the Expo.  We think you’ll be blown away!

Read about the Expo in "Nature's Pathways" March 2014 Edition

This way to the Natural Parenting Expo

March can be a tough month for families in Wisconsin. A long winter is finally drawing to a close and spring can’t seem to come soon enough! On Sunday, March 23, area families will have a fantastic opportunity to forget their winter woes: The Natural Parenting Expo at Monona Terrace will be anything but dreary! The resources and activities available make it a perfect environment for a day outing for parents and kids in southwestern Wisconsin.

At this second annual event, the 37,000-square-foot expo hall at Monona Terrace will be filled with exhibitors (last year there were 70) ranging from Aldo Leopold Nature Center to Zerorez (a green carpet-cleaning company). A packed performance/presentation schedule will run simultaneously in four areas throughout the day, and all-day exhibits keep kids (and parents) busy between booths and scheduled events.

The expo is a production of Natural Parenting Network, LLC (NPN), the conception of three local business owners (and mothers) who formed NPN in 2012 to combine their passions for parenting and wellness with community building. The expo is designed to motivate, not intimidate. “Our goal for the expo is to provide a day of inspiration,” says Kimberly Zahasky of NPN. “Whether it’s getting kids to eat more vegetables and a little less junk food, inspiring children to get interested in physics or break-dancing or hearing from experts about important issues that affect us all.”

The event is co-sponsored by Willy Street Co-op, Happy Bambino, Dane Birth Coalition and Blue River Chiropractic, which Zahasky co-owns with her husband, Dr. Ben Zahasky. Each company brings its expertise in the form of booths. “Every booth has staffing,” Zahasky relays. Quality and variety of exhibitors is key to the expo’s organizers. “We have parameters around what types of businesses can exhibit, and we do limit booths … and try not to have too many of each type of service so there’s a lot of variety. Some booths will be selling products and some booths are there to share resources and information.”

While, as Zahasky says, the expo has a lot of information for expectant parents and babies, the event has programming for ages up to 13. “This year we scheduled a lot of events for older kids and tweens in the afternoon — including the UW-Madison ‘Wonders of Physics’ show and the Wild Rumpus World Circus,” says Alison Dodge of Natural Parenting Network who coordinates programming for the all-day event.

Other main stage performances include: David Landau (a popular children’s entertainer); a “babywearing” fashion show; Irish, Hmong, Latin, and belly dance; and hula hooping performances. Family-friendly activities include an interactive worm-composting exhibit, a slingshot creation station from Fractal Madison, an inflatable obstacle course and bouncy house, and goats and other farm animals from Heartland Farm Sanctuary.

New this year is a keynote presentation. Dr. Dipesh Navsaria is pediatrician, occasional children’s librarian, public health professional and child health advocate who practices primary-care pediatrics at Access Community Health. His presentation “Books Build Better Brains” will cover the basics of current advances in early brain and child development in an accessible manner and present a simple route to realistically incorporate recommendations into the busy lives of families. Also included are the latest recommendations on screen time across the age spectrum. There is no fee for this presentation, but space is limited so early registration is recommended.

The Dane Birth Coalition will co-sponsor a screening of the new film “The Business of Being Born: Classroom Edition” (followed by a brief community discussion facilitated by sexuality educator Amy Gilliland). This film is designed for high school and college students, and the screening is equally appropriate for expectant parents, educators, and parents of young adults.

Other presentations geared toward adults include a panel discussion on “Alternative Schooling Approaches” and presentations on the safe use of herbs for childhood ailments, holistic gut health, self-care for parents and food allergies in children.

Finally, a special performance by national director of the “Listen To Your Mother Show,” well-known blogger and comedienne, Ann Imig, is running concurrently with the expo. “The Children Ate My Gratitude: Parenting Humor with Ann Imig” will be followed by a Q&A on parent blogs and the blogosphere at large.

If that’s not enough, the expo runs on the same day as the FairShare CSA (community-supported agriculture) Coalition’s Annual Open House at Monona Terrace. “We felt sharing the day/space would provide another excellent opportunity for our expo attendees and introduce more local families to the concept of community-supported agriculture,” Dodge says. The open house is a free event (from 1 to 4 p.m.) and provides an opportunity to meet 35 local CSA farmers, find pick-up locations, sign up for a CSA farm share and learn about on-farm and FairShare events.

The Natural Parenting Expo has a full day of resources and family-friendly activities. But one thing will be noticeably missing: soda. “We take a lot of care in developing the concessions menu with Monona Catering,” Jennifer Bell of the Natural Parenting Network says. “This year, we were able to eliminate the option of soft drinks in addition to providing a nutrition-packed, delicious menu. Soda is linked to obesity, tooth decay and many other health issues. We’re excited to provide healthy options instead.”

In a nutshell, organizers say

The Natural Parenting Expo is a “fantastic opportunity to learn about local resources for parenting and natural living and enjoy a great day of family fun.”