New Events and Opportunities, a local youth group also known as NEO, is holding its second annual NEO Fest this weekend at the 49er Fun Park in the 300 block of Railroad Avenue in Grass Valley. This year’s NEO Fest is aimed toward raising money for a youth center that the group hopes to purchase for the growing number of students they serve throughout Western Nevada County.
“I know a lot of youth in the community, and to see them all together in that one spot for NEO Fest, having fun is just an awesome experience,” NEO co-founder Halli Ellis said. “So opening a youth center would allow us as a group to bring youth together to service and help every day.”
The June 14 event will be held between noon and 10 p.m., and will give community members, young and old, a chance to participate in a plethora of activities from face painting, balloon animals, T-shirt decorating, carnival games, a ball pit, live music, food, a raffle, and an informational booth section for attendees to learn about groups and businesses in the community.
“It’s a lot of fun for everyone because everyone gets to remember what it’s like to be a kid,” Ellis said. “And we are only asking for a one-dollar donation.”
Eight-year-old A.J. King went to NEO Fest last year and has since told all of her friends about it.
“My favorite part was the dance party because you got to free dance and there was a lot of cool songs, and it was cool to see a live band,” A.J. said.
Alex Ramsey, 19, played with his band “Loose Cannon Mariachi” at NEO Fest last year and said it was one of his favorite shows to play at, ever.
“In Grass Valley, there clearly aren’t that many things to do,” Ramsey said. “I think it’s pretty cool that they’re giving people a place to consistently go to, to have things to do, and to have a safe environment.”
Also included in the day’s festivities will be a go-cart race between local businesses vying for NEO Fest bragging rights. Reenie Saucier, owner of Grass Valley Tire, has entered her business in the race.
“We have a couple of teenage daughters, and NEO Fest is a great way to get the word out there to have a program for our youth to give them positive direction in their lives,” Saucier said. “Giving them the right options and taking the right path are things we strongly believe in supporting.”
NEO’s proposed multi-million dollar youth center would include an after-school program with games and activities like ping pong, karaoke, a basketball court, and an outdoor skate park. The youth center would also include a tutoring program that would give students access to a computer lab, tutors, and a library.
NEO also plans to hold weekly workshops at the proposed youth center which would include sessions on cooking, sewing, college prep, job training, digital skills and arts and crafts. Ellis says that they would also provide families with counseling services, a commercial kitchen and an organic garden.
“Giving youth and families around the area a place to grow and learn and have fun together would be great for the community,” Ellis said. “So we’re working hard to get the funds to purchase a center, and we’re hoping we get some of that money raised at NEO Fest.”
Natalia Delacoeur volunteered at the arts and crafts booth at NEO Fest last year and said that it was a fun experience that allowed her to meet new people and contribute to a great cause.
“I think it’s important for people to show up because it is an alternative to negative activities,” Delacoeur said. “It’s an alternative place to go to have fun for teenagers.”
Delacoeur, 15, said she hopes NEO is able to raise enough money to launch a youth center.
“Kids could come seven days a week and there will be a bunch of activities, help with homework, computers, food, snacks, and it would be a safe place to come and hang out,” Delacoeur said. “Nevada County is known for marijuana use, so we’re trying to lower the amount of teens doing that. So if they have somewhere to go to have fun activities and be safe, instead of just being bored at home, they will be less likely to do drugs.”
For more information, or to donate to NEO, go to http://www.ncneo.com/donate/
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.