The organizers of the 2015 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts definitely aren’t taking any chances this year when it comes to pretend violence.
For safety’s sake, the Arts Fest board of directors voted unanimously to ban toy guns and all other toy weapons including ping-pong-ball catapults, foam swords, rubber band guns and Nerf weapons such as the Nerf N-Force Battlemaster Mace Axe.
The summer arts festival is scheduled for July 9 to July 12 in State College, reports the Centre Daily Times, the main local newspaper.
On Wednesday, July 8, the day before the festival kicks off, there will be a Children and Youth Day sidewalk sale. Some 300 kids aged 8 to 18 are expected to show up selling or demonstrating their wares — and many hundreds more there to gawk.
The art festival board of directors is deeply worried that some kids (boys, no doubt) will show up to hawk items that represent guns or weapons but aren’t actually real guns or weapons.
“We live in especially violent times,” announced Arts Fest executive director Rick Bryant in a press release obtained by the Daily Times. “Banning the sale of weapons at the Children and Youth Sidewalk Sale might not be a giant step in making our society less violent, but it’s a step that we can take.”
Bryant said that, in his opinion, the ban is not a political act.
“I’m not a psychologist, so I’m not making that kind of statement,” he told the local paper.
“I don’t care so much if a child plays with a toy gun or something else at his own home. I just don’t want them to do it here,” he added.
He said he is worried that pretend weapons will cause injuries.
There is good reason to worry that these kids today may show up with innocuous toy weapons, too. Last year, some of the Youth Day sidewalk sale participants brought bows and arrows and shields.
Not everyone is happy about the strict new rules.
For example, local parent Mike Reinert is disappointed because in past years his son Nate constructed ping-pong-ball catapults which entertained throngs of children.
“I understand they want to be careful and not encourage weapons and violence, so I can try to appreciate their position,” Reinert told the Daily Times. “On the other hand, we have a military that uses them and is violent just so we can have this conversation.”
Reinert, a Navy veteran, also suggested that the draconian rule against certain kinds of toys is unfair to boys.
“Where are we leaving our boys?” he asked. “As a guy, there are just natural instincts we’ve had for thousands of years, and now we’re supposed to say it’s not okay? I know they’re doing the best they can, but it’s a Catch-22.”
For this year, the board has expressly banned the sale of historic facsimiles such as rubber-band guns, pop guns and swords. Also banned are Nerf weapons, light sabers and, in fact, anything that could launch a projectile. Bows and arrows and shields are also strictly prohibited.
While nowhere near as bizarre as neighboring Maryland, Pennsylvania has seen a decent amount of anti-toy-gun hysteria in recent years.
For example, in 2013, a kindergarten girl was suspended after she told another girl that she planned to shoot her with a pink Hello Kitty toy gun that bombards targets with soapy bubbles. (RELATED: Kindergartener Suspended For Making ‘Terroristic Threat’ With Hello Kitty Bubble Gun)
Also in 2013, officials reportedly yelled at a fifth-grade girl and then searched her in front of her class after she was found with a paper gun her grandfather had made for her. (RELATED: Paper Gun Causes Panic)