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On-the-Town Entertainment

Go beyond the usual clown or magician  -- these are also less expensive than traditional entertainers:

* What could be cooler than having a fire truck pull up to your house? Many fire departments will send over a fire engine for kids to clamber on while they learn about safety from a real firefighter. Some supply helmets to guests. (You should make a donation to the fire station.)

* Hire two high schoolers to play CDs and lead a dance party. Or have a couple of cheerleaders demonstrate a routine for the kids. Toddlers and preschoolers love to wiggle around and can try to copy the moves.

* Hairstyling appeals to nearly all girls; see if a local stylist will create updos, French braids, ponytails, or crooked hair parts.

* Ask a music teacher to lead a sing-along. Gather (or borrow) drums, shakers, tambourines, or musical toys so kids can play as well as sing.

* Run, kick, and jump: Your child's favorite camp counselor or a high school athlete could teach soccer skills, run a T-ball game, or practice gymnastics with the kids.

* Find a crafty professional (art teacher or preschool aide) to design an art project such as holiday cards, candy wreaths, or nature designs.

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