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Grown-up world for kids turns 7
INKs celebration includes animals, magic, family fun
Emily Gregory of Dacula gets served some pretend food by her children Landon, 9, left, and Leah, 3, Saturday afternoon during the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids’ seventh birthday party “Celebrating Community Connections.” Gregory and her two children were playing inside the INK restaurant.

Would you like to enter a world that is all your own?

Would you like to be a doctor, veterinarian, firefighter or even a judge for a day?

When children walk into Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, they enter a world that lets them do just that. INK’s exhibits give kids the opportunity to not just play but also learn about different careers.

INK gives children the unique opportunity to use their imagination and experience all sorts of new adventures. Kids can hop into a sheriff’s car and pretend they’re on a high-speed chase. They can be a teacher in a classroom or a doctor looking over X-rays in an office.

Saturday, children, parents and grandparents flocked to INK’s facility on Chestnut Street to celebrate its seventh birthday. INK teamed up with North Georgia Kids’ Directory for the event, "Celebrating Community Connections," which included a magician, inflatable jumping toys, a petting zoo and more.

Sheri Hooper, INK’s founder and executive director, is in awe about INK turning 7.

"It’s unbelievable," she said. "It seems like an extremely short time and also a long time because it’s been such a vital part of my life. I can’t imagine my life without INK."

Hooper said she "absolutely" wishes there had been a place like INK when she was a kid.

"I’m still a kid at heart," Hooper said. "My favorite part is the café, as far as the exhibits go."

Hooper said she loves the social interaction INK offers.

"It produces such a healthy bond between families and community," she said.

Jessica Wade, publisher for North Georgia Kids’ Directory, is part of the team who helped make Saturday’s event possible.

"I contacted Sheri because I thought this would be an excellent facility to connect families," Wade said.

One room at INK is set up like a mini grocery store where kids can choose what they want to "buy" and put their items in little grocery carts. The carts all have a flag on them that reads "customer in training."

Gabriel Lee, 2, was enjoying placing items such as ice cream into his cart on his first trip to INK with his parents.

"I can’t get him out of the J&J Foods store," said Gabriel’s father, John Lee. "There seems to be a diverse variety of things to do here."

Lee said that at age 2, "he’s going to be really excited about everything."

"He’s really going to love the fire truck," Lee said.

Lesley Harbin of Commerce visited INK for the first time with her 1-year-old son, Wolf. He took a liking to the toy Dalmatian that was sitting on the fire truck, smiling as he reached out to touch the "dog."

Angie Baxter, 9, was at INK with her sister, Catelyn Baxter, 7, and grandmother, Eloise Baxter.

Angie’s favorite part of INK was the hairdresser section, where girls can look at different hair styles and wigs. Catelyn, on the other hand, said, "I like all of it!"

"I think it’s good because it’s really hands-on, and they can learn how to do different things," Eloise said. "Most museums are ‘don’t touch,’ and I like this because it’s hands-on."

INK celebrated its birthday with many unique hands-on activities. Josh Adam, owner of a traveling petting zoo who introduces himself as "Old McDonald," has two children, Colton, 2, and Cooper, 1, who are both "car boys" and love the vehicles at INK.

"Old McDonald" brought many different animals with him to the birthday bash, including goats, a pig, a rabbit and a ferret.

Adam said that it is important for kids to be able to see farm animals and be educated on them.

"We love to expose kids to new things," Adam said.

Other animals were provided by Clint Eller of Cornelia with "Pets Gone Wild," including snakes, lizards and other reptiles.

"We want to introduce kids to something that no one else in Georgia can do," Eller said.

Eller believes that it is important to show kids that snakes and other reptiles are not something to be scared of.

"Snakes are the only animals that don’t kill for territory and don’t kill for fun," Eller said. "What we want people to know is that these snakes don’t get out of their cage and think ‘I’m going to bite a kid.’ Plus, if you can get kids to know that these snakes aren’t scary, then they won’t grow up and kill every snake that walks across their yard."

Even with so many things currently going on at INK, Hooper is thinking about the possibilities for the next seven years. She hopes to provide "more opportunities for young families to come together, play together, and learn together."

"I would like to see some of our exhibits expand to have even more educational opportunities for kids," Hooper said.

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