HANNIBAL -- Hundreds of children bounced the afternoon away Saturday at Hannibal's Admiral Coontz Recreation Center during the inaugural Winter Bounce Fest.
Seven bounce houses -- alternating between castles and obstacle courses -- were set up in a horseshoe arrangement inside the recreation center. A dozen or so children danced and flipped around in front of a stage in one corner on which Mobile Entertainer was playing music. Across the way, Mark Twain Dinette served lunch, and the Kupcakes Bakery covered dessert.
The event came out of a question Mr. Wizard's Bouncing Castles owner Andrew Romano asked himself: "How do we get the kids out of the house and active?"
"All the kids running and jumping, what would they be doing if they weren't here today?" Romano said. "It's great to have a place for kids to go."
Romano hoped to draw in about 500 people over the seven hours the Bounce Fest was open. Just before 2 p.m., organizers estimated between 300 and 350 people had passed through.
"I think the decorating was a good touch," said Hannibal resident Heather Wilson, pointing to the two balloon arches set up near the entrance to the bounce houses. "They made it fun for the kids. It's like a big birthday party."
Wilson's 4-year-old daughter Tatum occupied herself mainly on one of the inflatable obstacle courses set up along the far wall. Tatum was drawn by the bounce house's slide.
"Bouncing is my favorite," she said before scampering back up the slide.
Stacey Mueller of Hannibal brought her son and two of his friends out to the event.
"It's a really nice activity for the winter," she said. "Most of the things to do in Hannibal are outside. There are things for adults to do, but it's really nice to have a winter activity for kids."
Mueller described the festival as a "whirlwind." Her son, Calvin Mueller, and his friends, Nicholas and Elliott Seiler, were taken by all the different activities available. They were particularly fond of the obstacle course as well.
The festival was held with the community in mind but also provided some exposure for locally owned businesses. Mr. Wizard's Bouncing Castles opened last year and is based in Hannibal.
"It helps us get our name out," Romano said. "We're a brand new business."
Romano said the event was meant to be annual, but, with the overwhelmingly positive response he saw Saturday, the company may look into holding several more events this year.