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Leslie Jessop, 9, of Martinez, tries out the new zip line ride during the Kidfest three-day family friendly event at Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, Calif., on Saturday, May 25, 2013. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

Jousters and acrobats on horseback, a nationally known singer, and a young man with a breathtaking sleight of hand will be taking center stage at an area event that has long exemplified true family fun.

The 25th annual Bay Area KidFest will be held on Memorial Day weekend at Mt. Diablo High School, where soloist Briana Oakley, one of 20 recent American Idol finalists, will sing some pop and R&B selections.

Oakley, 17, who just graduated from Carondelet High School in Concord, is at home on stage, whether it's in front of a nationally televised audience or a local crowd, having sung at myriad nonprofit fundraisers and benefits since early childhood.

The entertainment producers of KidFest first saw Briana sing the national anthem a year ago at a soccer clinic put on by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla.

"It was all about empowering girls to do all that they are capable ... taking the world by storm," Briana describes.

Now, the Antioch resident is living her dream, long inspired by Kelly Clarkson's rise to fame.

"I come alive on stage," she says. "It's about giving something so much bigger than myself."

Her mom, Nellie Gordon, recalls the surreal moment when she saw Briana perform before a crowd at age 8.

"There are no words ... and the roar of the audience when she finished singing. People of all ages rushed to the stage, just wanting to shake her hand," says Gordon. "My heart skipped a beat."


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The KidFest stage also features another Bay Area local, Jack Alexander, who will be making a table float and objects disappear as part of his theatrical magic show that he will perform three times on Saturday and Sunday, starting at noon.

"It's crazy stuff you probably won't see anywhere else. It's going to be highly interactive with the kids to get them involved as much as possible," say Jack, 15, a Pleasant Hill resident and freshman at College Park High School.

He hopes to inspire the same sense of wonder and ensuing contagion for magic that he got when a magician performed at his fifth birthday party.

Danville resident Samantha Samuels, who has been instrumental in coordinating the KidFest entertainment for 15 years, "walks the line between featuring those just starting out, to those who are the highest caliber (performers)," she says, citing other such local talent as members of then Concord Kung Fu Academy or the D'Ann's Academy of Dance.

"KidFest is the biggest bang for your buck," Samuels adds.

Among the entertainers are the medieval-inspired, Florida-based Cavallo Equestrian Arts' Dark Knights, who are bringing seven acrobats and jousters and four Portuguese Lucitanos and quarter horses to Concord.

"It's knowing your audience. With the kid shows, we keep it G-rated," says producer and second-generation jouster Olissio Zoppe, who is among the eighth- and ninth-generation descendants of equestrian performers heralding from San Fiore, Italy.

"Each show is unique and high energy. We use a lot of action and stunts," Zoppe adds, describing the three times a day performances at KidFest.

Meanwhile, Puff the Magic Dragon marionette show joins other featured entertainment for kids of all ages, including 20-plus rides, a zip line, Cartoon Network characters, a KidFest SportsJam and much more over the three-day festival.

if you go
WHAT: Bay Area KidFest
WHEN: 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday-Monday on Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-26
WHERE: Mt. Diablo High School, 2450 Grant St., Concord
ADMISSION: $6 per person with a donation of a canned good for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano ($7 without the donation); kids under 24 months and seniors over age 65 are free
INFORMATION: For a complete schedule, visit KidFestConcord or email info@bayareafamilyfest.com