Yesterday afternoon, my wife and I took the girls out to Schaumburg for the Aquatic Experience - Chicago, a first-ever event assembled by the World Pet Association to bring "everything aquatic under one roof." Having previously introduced readers to the show through a ticket giveaway here on The Rock Father, we attended as Media guests, and the girls were excited - particularly Addie, who was amped-up about "seeing the fish" all week. After all, we've made special trips over to Bass Pro Shops just to visit their water-dwelling residents, and the kids love visiting "Nemo" when we head down to my Mom's house... where they have an in-wall aquarium.
The Aquatic Experience is essentially a trade show that's open to the public, complete with vendors showing off their latest products, panels and seminars, demonstrations, and even an appearance by the traveling "Live Shark Encounter." There's a lot of great fish tank set-ups, and the kids loved it - something quite evident just minutes after our arrival. Little Finley (just 17-months) was making it a point to say "Hi" to every fish she found...
Now, unless I'm on them as a speaker, I'm not really into panels and seminars, so we didn't even make it up to the second floor to peek in on them, but there's some great stuff happening for the hardcore fish enthusiasts out there. My interest was in seeing the kids get excited, and that we did.
Along the way, we came across the folks from Aquascape, a booth I had to check out since I've always been a fan of outdoor water features and ponds. I'm increasingly tempted to do something along those lines here at Rock Father HQ, but Addie was just fine with getting to pet a turtle that was part of the display. That's a self-contained pond for indoor-outdoor use...
Among the genuinely kid-centric aspects of the Aquatic Experience is the Kid's Aquarium Contest, in which kids pre-registered to display their own creations, eventually being judged and awarded ribbons based on creativity. Addie was really into an aquarium based on THE LITTLE MERMAID, but what was really neat was to see one little boy - Teddy - patiently waiting by his tank for the judging to take place. I spoke briefly with his mom, who told me how invested he was in his project, the "Tetra Soccer League." I'm not sure if Teddy scored a ribbon, but his tank is pretty cool. Update: Teddy took First Place in Children Ages 5-8!
The much-touted "Live Shark Encounter Experience" was certainly a highlight, and one we stuck around to catch. This traveling exhibit founded by two former circus stunt performers features a 5,000 gallon tank filled with live Nurse Sharks, an-ever-changing assortment of which are rescue animals that are later placed with worthy organizations across the country... free of charge. In this show and exhibit, families can learn a little bit about sharks, while enjoying some humorous antics... like diver Philip playing "air guitar" with a live shark.
Now, when we first entered the event and were presented with a question - "Do you have Freshwater or Saltwater at home?" - in order to score the complimentary swag bag, my answer was "Neither." While I did go with "Saltwater" to give to my Stepdad, "neither" no longer applies. The reason? "Lula."
While checking out the Hikari booth, they were having the ol' "ball toss" game to win a Betta. For $1, Addie got a chance to toss some balls into (empty, but marked) cups, hoping to score a fish. While she didn't get it right away, she was given another chance, and soon became the owner of a fancy red Betta of her own. With proceeds going to benefit Pets in the Classroom (a great educational organization that works with schools to give kids the opportunity to experience the joy and love of pets), I bought a bowl and care kit for just $8, and before we even left the booth, this Betta was officially named "Lula." Why Lula? Only the four-year-old knows for sure...
When we arrived back home last night, while the girls got their baths upstairs, I set-up Lula's new home. This little fish took her place in Addie's bedroom, where she was told the "Hush" poem for the very first time. If you're not familiar, "Hush the Goldfish" is a friend on the Good Night Show on Sprout. Each night, we watch host Nina as she recites a goodnight poem to the little fish - a poem that I expect will become a nightly ritual for Lula here at our home...
If you're reading this post fresh, The Aquatic Experience is still going on through tomorrow. If not, visit http://aquaticexperience.org/ to keep up on plans for their 2014 show.
About James: A work-from-home Dad with a pair of daughters (Released in 2009 and 2012) - James Zahn is THE ROCK FATHER™.
Bringing over two decades of experience in the entertainment industry into the family realm, Zahn is an Illinois-based Entertainment Writer, Media Personality and Commentator.
He serves as a PBS KIDS VIP (Very Involved Parent), has made guest appearances as a member of the Sprout Kindness Crew, was featured in the Father's Day issue of Lake County Magazine, and is a former contributor to Chicago Parent.
Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for the likes of FEAR FACTORY, DIRGE WITHIN, PRODUCT OF HATE, ARCANIUM and others, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands.
James and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Blogcritics, Fangoria, Starlog, The River Cities' Reader. Slowfish, Oil, and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360, and in 2013 he's been quoted on CNN, Babble, The Huffington Post, and The Good Men Project, in addition to making appearances on ABC News and WGN.
Learn more here.