Artist Maggie Willis created Momma Monster One of my favorite summertime events, the Utah Arts Festival, got underway in downtown Salt Lake City. I look forward to it every year because not only is the art showcased, well, bonafide art (Versus the crafts pedaled at many other art festivals.), but also every year event organizers do a great job creating a festive, fly-your-freak-flag party atmosphere with killer live entertainment, yummy food vendors and very cool, high-quality kids activities. Best yet, kids 12 and under get in FREE every day of the four-day event. Highs were predicted to reach only the mid-70s today, perfect conditions to take my daughter Meredith and her friend Heidi downtown to give our brains' right side a little work out. Our first stop: the Art Yard.

Making pom pom bugs at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art's Art Yard tent. The Art Yard is full of activities to get the festival's youngest patrons down and dirty with art. Kids can "spruce up" the Gigantic Momma Monster near the entrance to the Art Yard with paint and toilet paper. Mini monsters scattered elsewhere in the yard need kids to add arms, legs and other body parts as well. Break every mom's rule by coloring and writing on the walls, furniture and carpets in the Art Yard's Living Room of Mischief. A number of area nonprofits are also in the Art Yard to help the kids create. Try out an instrument the Summerhays Music Center’s Instrument Petting Zoo. Monstrous mask making is marvelous, too, courtesy of Art Access and the Utah Youth Village. Tracy Aviary is on hand to help kids build a fantasy flying beast, and at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art booth kids can make a Beehive State bee out of pipe cleaners. Monster Claws and more are assembled with the help of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Utah Youth Village and the Visual Art Institute.

Even the littlest kids can get in on the action in the Art Yard Toddler Zone, programmed with age 4-and-under activities and outfitted with a convenient diaper changing tent. And kid-centric performers provide both music and lots of belly laughs on the Art Yard stage every day from 1 - 7 p.m.

Rock, Paper and Scissors yuck it up for the crowd Thursday on the Art Yard Stage.

Though both Meredith and Heidi got a kick out of the Art Yard activities what they really dug--and what Meredith had come for expressly--were the hat making and face painting tents, located just outside the Art Yard.

 Click to read more