Te'Von Cleveland works on an exercise during the Vacation Bible School at United Missionary Baptist Church on Monroe Street. The session uses programs suitable for schoolchildren.
Horses and cowboys, planets and space ships, sailboats and oceans, toucans and rain forests - each summer, such kid-friendly images as these are transformed into Vacation Bible School programs in Toledo and across the country.
This year's professionally produced VBS themes on display at LifeWay Christian Store on Talmadge Road included the Western-themed Saddle Ridge Ranch; the caped superhero images of Hero Headquarters; the rainforest-splashed SonQuest, and space images of Planet Zoom and Galactic Blast.
Stocked alongside the various boxed "starter kit" packages for VBS leaders were a broad assortment of toys and knickknacks ranging from folding cardboard binoculars to faux leather cowboy hats to the predictable pencils, bookmarks, and coloring books.
How are the professionally designed VBS kits selling this year?
"They're not," said Scott Zaborowski, LifeWay store manager. "This is the slowest year by far that I've seen for Vacation Bible Schools, and I've been here 12 years."
He said the nation's economic strife has forced many churches to cut back on buying the slickly produced VBS packages, which range from $69.99 for the leader kits on up.
"My hope is that a lot of churches are still doing Vacation Bible Schools, but maybe they are using their own materials," he said.
In the Toledo area, Vacation Bible School season started this week at United Missionary Baptist Church on Monroe Street.
The church's VBS theme was "Praise Party," and about 30 youngsters attended the event held nightly through Thursday.
Here is a list of some of the Vacation Bible Schools coming up soon in northwest Ohio:
First Congregational Church, 2315 Collingwood Blvd., 5:30-8:30 p.m. tomorrow-Thursday, "Saddle Ridge Ranch," 419-243-6248.
Neapolis Church of Christ, Main and Central, Neapolis, 6:30-8:45 p.m. Monday-Thursday, "High Seas Adventure," 419-875-6752.
Clark Street United Methodist Church, 1133 Clark St., 10 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday, 419-691-3115.
Calvary Assembly of God, 5025 Glendale Ave., 6-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, "Mega Sports Camp," 419-381-0254.
Bono Baptist Church, 967 Main St., Bono, 5:30-7:45 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, "In the Beginning," 419-836-2000.
Church on Strayer, 3000 Strayer Rd., Maumee, 6-8 p.m. June 21-25 "High Seas Adventure," 419-866-2094.
Friendship Baptist and Toledo Mennonite Churches, 5301 Nebraska Ave., 6-8 p.m. June 21-25, "Praise Party," 419-531-3242.
Third Baptist Church, 402 Pinewood Ave., 5:30-8:30 p.m. June 21-25, "Camp Solid Rock," 419-248-4623.