Like many parents, I look for free, child-friendly entertainment anywhere. There was even a dismal Saturday in January I took my daughter to Johnson’s Hardware so she could see the koi fish in their indoor pond.

I didn’t realize how costly it could be to entertain a family until I actually had to do it. 

In junior high, my social studies teacher assigned the class to find an entry-level job in the classifieds. We also had to find a house to rent and a car. 

We created an imaginary family that we would have to house and support on our imaginary wages. 

The purpose of the exercise was to gain a realistic idea of what kinds of jobs were available and the cost of living we would face.

As we were graded, the instructor chastised me for not including “entertainment” in my family budget. He pointed out that just to go to a movie, you would have to pay the babysitter, the ticket price and of course to enjoy the film you would need something from the concession stand. By his reasoning a date at the movies would cost near $40. 

I felt he was exaggerating costs in order to make a point — but this weekend I took my husband out for a date. With the meal, a few drinks and the babysitter I spent more than that imaginary night at the movies. I will begrudgingly admit that Mr. Mattson was right: Entertaining families is expensive. 

My high-school imaginary budget couldn’t make room for $40, so I resolved that my imaginary family would simply have to forgo any trips to the movies. Without the cash, things like movies, swimming at the pool, restaurants and baseball games were just out of the question.

Unfortunately, I feel this is the reason so many families forgo even free events like the county fair. While seeing the animals and other free exhibits is nice, other things can cost you —especially if you have a hard time saying “no.” There are tempting things like books, grandstand tickets, knickknacks, ice cream and carnival rides that children are going to ask for that often can’t be granted. 

I would encourage parents not to let that deter them from going.  We are in a peak time for city-wide celebrations with free entertainment opportunities way better than a little koi pond. July 24-28 is the Kanabec County Fair; Braham Pie Day is Friday Aug. 2 and Back to the Tower Day in Ogilvie is Aug. 3. 

Parents, take advantage of these wonderful chances to get your kids out of the house and experiencing something new. Decide on a budget. If you need to, pack a picnic lunch to reduce money spent at the food stands. Be ready to say no to kids’ requests for goodies. 

Be brave and happy-festival-ing. 

Kirsten Faurie is the editor of the Kanabec County Times. She can be contacted at or by calling 320-225-5128. 


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