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SALT LAKE CITY — With parents in tow, thousands of toddlers flooded Wheeler Historic Farm's 75 acres Saturday morning for FarmFest, the park's annual summer kickoff celebration.
"FarmFest is about coming out, getting excited for summer and seeing what the farm has to offer,” said Raegan Scharman, the farm's program director.
Originally founded in 1887, Wheeler Historic Farm now operates as a sort of "natural education rec center," said Callie Birdsall of Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation.
Visitors can milk cows, take hay rides and view a live blacksmithing demonstration, among other things.
Visit from a tiger
FarmFest offers additional activities, including sheep shearing and simple take-home crafts and gardening activities. This year's celebration featured a special appearance from Daniel Tiger, the star of PBS Kids cartoon "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood."
The popular "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" replacement drew far more guests than Wheeler Historic Farm's staff expected, Scharman said.
"We watched Daniel Tiger every day until we came here," said Christopher Smith, age 6, as he waited in the character's hourslong photo-op line.
"We love every episode," chimed in Christopher's 4-year-old sister, Katelyn.
Eventually, the line grew so long that organizers were forced to cut it off.
"Tigers can only roar for so long, you know," Scharman said.
Saturday's celebration also included a sneak peek of the farm's upcoming Sundays, which will soon be devoted to hosting the Wasatch Front Farmers Market. Many of the market's 80-plus vendors previewed their offerings Saturday at a special "charity" market.
The Wasatch Market board will donate all of Saturday's collected vendor fees to the Friends of Wheeler Farm fund, said market owner Mariann Alston. The funds will likely be used in the construction of an on-site education center.
"Every single person that's helping here today just loves this farm," Alston said.
For many vendors, the market is a labor of love. Soap maker Becky Vincent's goals are simple: "Sell, sell, sell, so I can make more, more, more."
"This is a huge hobby for me now," said Vincent, who founded Lilacs n' Lilies soap company with her daughter last year. "Once you start, you're hooked."
Regularly scheduled markets will begin the morning of June 7.
Scharman encouraged all city-dwellers to consider attending, or to simply spend a few weekend hours lounging on the farm's broad lawns.
"It's kind of an oasis in the middle of everything," she said. "You can decompress as if you're not right next to a freeway or a mall. It's a nice escape."
Allison Oligschlaeger is currently studying English and Arabic at the University of Utah while completing an internship with the Deseret News. Contact her at email@example.com.