The Awesome Squad
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The Awesome Squad

Decatur, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Decatur, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Pop Children's Music




"Happy Noon Year!"

DECATUR -- Throughout the hour leading up to the noon balloon drop, the amount of time left until the big moment was announced intermittently to the Children’s Museum of Illinois crowd.

“33 minutes left,” shouted Awesome Squad singer/guitarist Zach Garrett.

The kids met the announcement with no reaction as they played at the Children’s Museum activities stations. Then the number reached 10 … 9 … 8 … and everyone joined in .

“It’s the kid’s version of New Year’s,” Children’s Museum Executive Director Amber Kaylor said of Happy Noon Year -- the museum’s annual midday New Year’s celebration. “It’s a really cool opportunity for kids to get to experience the countdown and party atmosphere around the holiday.”

When the countdown reached zero, balloons were released and they filled the museum. Then they began to pop.

Jonan Tiarks’ 3-year-old daughter Elizabeth had a big smile on her face as she tried to stomp on the balloons.

“It’s amazing to see so many kids in the same place having this much fun,” said Tiarks, who was also with his wife Rachel, 2-year-old son Levi and 8-month old son Silas. “And we don’t have to stay up late now to celebrate the New Year.”

A chance to ring in the New Year early is a hot commodity. For the first time in the many years it’s held Noon Year, the Children’s Museum sold tickets in advance. All 250 tickets were sold.

“It’s become a tradition -- it’s so popular that we get too many people for our building to hold,” Kaylor said. “That’s why we did preregistration this year. For safety purposes we have to keep it at that number. It keeps it more fun for people when it’s not so crowded and cramped.”

Having advance tickets was a big reason why Katie Kunzeman, her husband Andy and 2-year-old son Logan decided to come this year.

“I heard about it from my mom and it sounded fun, and I liked that you had to preregister because I’d heard it was crazy before,” Kunzeman said.

Logan went from activity to activity in a hurry, though he did stop to dance to local children’s music band The Awesome Squad.

“He’s having a good time,” Andy said. Then Andy looked down and noticed Logan was gone. “Then he ran away,” Andy said, laughing.

The Awesome Squad is duo Zach Garrett and Michael Scherer. Garrett started their show by announcing, “We’re right here by the climby thing,” then pointed at a boy playing on it. “You know what I’m talking about,” Garrett said.

The Awesome Squad launched into their first song and 4-year-old Elizabeth Bennett, wearing a sparkly dress, danced front and center.

“She’s their buddy -- they call her The Awesome Squad super fan,” said Elizabeth’s dad, Matt. “She’s a performer. This is normal for her. She’s this way at home, too.”

For Matt and wife wife Megan, New Year’s Eve has always been a night of celebration -- they got engaged on New Year’s Eve. But with Megan pregnant with the couple’s second child, the type of celebration shifted this year.

“Elizabeth won’t be staying up until midnight, but we’ll try to,” Megan said. “It’s a more family-friendly New Year’s for us this year -- no partying. But what’s nice about this event is you get to celebrate New Year’s with your kids and could still go out in the evening if you wanted.”

In preparation for the big noon balloon drop, best friends Nora Bellmyer and Morgan Schollenbruch -- both 5 years old -- made crowns in the Children’s Museum classroom. Children’s Museum Director of Education Abby Koester showed them some craft tricks to add flair to their crowns.

“My favorite thing to do is wrap it around my finger and it makes loops,” Koester said.

Nora grabbed pieces of sparkly green and purple pipe cleaner and did the same, then attached it to her crown. Koester sized both Nora and Morgan’s heads, stapled the ends of the crowns in the appropriate spots and sat them on top of each girl’s head.

“I love it,” said Nora’s mom Bethany Bellmyer.

Morgan and Nora posed for a picture in their purple crowns.

“We’ve both done the same things,” Morgan said, smiling and pointing out their matching crowns and face paint. - Herald and Review


DECATUR – The archaeology dig outside the front door of the Children's Museum of Illinois grabbed Grace Ellis' attention as soon as she arrived with her parents, Denny and Angie Ellis.

“Wouldn't you like to go see some of the other things they have, Grace?” Angie Ellis asked.

“Not yet,” Grace said, still engaged in searching for ancient artifacts with a plastic shovel.

Denny Ellis chuckled. “She gets that interest in archaeology from me,” he said. “I like to look for arrowheads and stuff.”

The Ellises visited the children's museum for the first time on Saturday for Kidstock, an annual event to raise money for new exhibits. This year's project, said acting Executive Director Rachel Franz, is “Illumination Station,” a giant Lite Brite wall that will open in September.

“We are an arts and science museum, so we work a lot with very tactile things,” Franz said. “The Lite Brite wall is really good for the art and creative side as well as motor skills and counting, collaboration. It's going to be big enough that several people can work on it at the same time.”

Kidstock is a take-off on Woodstock, and is a music and arts festival. The artists and musicians all donated their time to help the children's museum.

Activities ranged from “paint the van” to making tie-dyed T-shirts and access to the new outdoor area, The Imagination Garden, with a wooden teepee to play in and on, a rowboat for pretend rides and a water table.

A giant bird's nest big enough for kids, and even adults, to go inside was donated by Millikin University's School of Education and the Ullrich Foundation. It proved to be as big a draw as any of the other activities on Saturday.

“We like the chance to get outside,” Franz said. “We like a chance to really dig into the crafts and things like that.”

The Awesome Squad -- Zach Garrett, Michael Scherer and friends -- performed selections from their “Perfect Day” EP, which was released Saturday.

Garrett and Scherer just finished a weeklong songwriting camp at the museum, where the campers, dubbed the “Mic Droppers,” wrote a new commercial jingle for the museum. That, too, debuted on Saturday, with the kids on hand to perform the catchy tune.

New Executive Director Amber Kaylor begins her job Monday, and Franz had alerted her to the event Saturday so she could come and get her feet wet before officially starting.

Kaylor first became aware of “the hidden gem,” as she referred to it, when she brought her nephew to the museum for a visit and was in awe of all the hands-on things to do, she said. Now she has a child of her own.

“It's going to give me some serious Mom cred,” she joked of her new job. “My son will want to come to work with me every day.”

Kaylor stayed home with her son during his first year and worked toward her master's degree. When it came time to look for a job again, she said, she considered the corporate world but realized that would likely involve travel and keep her away from her little boy. When the children's museum opening came to her attention, it sounded perfect.

“Luckily, they wanted me, too,” she said. - Herald and Review

"Rock the Park!"

DECATUR — Ian FullerMoore didn't mind getting up on stage with her family to sing and dance Saturday in front of hundreds of people in Central Park.

It was part of the fun for FullerMoore, her husband Kaleb, their 18-month-old son Rio and others attending Baby TALK's Rock the Park event. The gathering brought together families, musical performances and area businesses in Celebration of Baby Talk's 30th anniversary.

Corley Family Dental and Dale’s Southlake Pharmacy were the main sponsors and the program was partially sponsored through a grant from the Decatur Area Arts Council.

FullerMoore was glad to be visiting from Charleston, even if she wasn't expecting to be part of “The Stu Show” performance.

“We try to make it to every possible event like this in the area,” she said. “They have a ton of stuff to do here. We have lots of options.”

Organizers wanted to offer something big to mark the anniversary that could be free for all families who wanted to attend, said Julia Livingston, Baby Talk's director of development. Baby TALK, which stands for Teaching Activities for Learning and Knowledge, was founded in 1986 and supports families and others in the community in nurturing school readiness and optimal child development.

The festival was especially geared for children from birth to 8 years old, Livingston said.

“Everything we did for this was larger and more impactful for the community,” Livingston said. “We are really excited to see all the families with parents and children out here having such positive interactions.”

The musical portion of the festival was kicked off by Mount Zion native Dave Hamilton, who performed with his group “Mr. Dave and the Space Cadets.” Mr. Dave has been the featured part of concerts for Baby TALK in the past few years, but this was a chance to take the renovated Central Park stage, where he performed with other groups before moving to Chicago.

As his musical career has gone on, Hamilton has developed an interest in children's music and Baby TALK is one of the organizations he happily supports.

“I love what Baby TALK does for the community to support families that might not have everything of what they need,” Hamilton said. “This was a success. I hope they do it again.”

Hamilton is looking to open his own Mr. Dave's Music school as he focuses on musical education primarily in the Chicago area. Music can be soothing as children learn the songs, which Hamilton wants to be catchy for them to learn and enjoy along with the band.

“I want them to feel comfortable to sing and dance in front of other people,” Hamilton said. “It's cool to introduce them to music for the first time.”

Children recognized some of the festival's other performers from visits to the Children's Museum of Illinois. Michael Scherer and Zach Garrett have been branching out into children's music through the development of "The Awesome Squad."

Each of the musical groups were included because of their ability to provide interaction with the audience, both the young children and in inviting their parents to dance alongside during many of the songs, Livingston said.

Music wasn't the only activity happening throughout the park, as food vendors lined South Park Street, and ice cream was particularly popular on a warm, humid day. Educational arts and crafts booths included birthday hat making, cookie decorating, decorative block painting, jewelry making, instrument making, temporary tattoo art and mobile sidewalk chalk art.

Children could also get their picture taken with a superhero such as Spider-Man and a Transformer, princesses Elsa and Anna or one of the dogs from Paw Print Ministries. Some were even able to spot a Pokemon strolling through the park.

Hula-hoopers from Orbital Effusion and baton twirlers from Royal Twirling Academy were part of the entertainment between musical performances.

Orbital Effusion was started from an interest in something most people try as children, said Kimi Harper, one of the group's organizers. Harper said they were hoping to show what types of entertainment can be provided with a Hula Hoop, which many of the children at the festival were picking up and giving a try.

“It's for the kids,” Harper said. “A lot haven't seen the festival element before. It's neat to see the kids pick up the tricks. It's been popular.”

Harper said the group is planning to become more involved in the community and perform at various events throughout the year. - Herald and Review


Perfect Day (March 2017)
Music in the Classroom (March 2017)
Perfect Day EP (July 2016)



The Awesome Squad is a high-energy music group focused on entertaining, educating and motivating children around the world. Our vision is to positively impact the future of every child by developing and cultivating an "awesomeness" mentality. 

We are available for concerts of any size, school assemblies, motivational speaking, church events, birthday parties, etc. 

Band Members