published Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Kidz Expo welcomes Disney stars

  • photo
    "Austin & Ally" stars Ross Lynch and Laura Marano. Disney Channel photo

IF YOU GO

What: Chattanooga Times Free Press Kidz Expo

When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, April 20.

Where: Chattanooga Convention Center

Admission: $7 single tickets, $25 family four packs; tickets can be purchased at timesfreepress.com/kidzexpo or area McDonald's restaurants

Contact: http://timesfreepress.com/site/kidzexpo/2013 or 423-756-6900

Fear is an underlying theme on the Disney Channel's hit show "Austin & Ally." Austin is an outgoing singer and performer while Ally, who suffers from stage fright, is a songwriter who usually works behind the scenes.

But both will be front and center when Ross Lynch and Laura Marano, the actors who portray the show's lead characters, come to Chattanooga.

The two teen stars will headline this year's Kidz Expo, presented by the Chattanooga Times Free Press at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

Fans of Lynch and Marano will have the opportunity to meet the stars during an photograph/autograph session at the event. Officials say early arrivers to the expo will have a better chance of meeting the stars.

"Ross and Laura will be taking fan photos for an extended amount of time. Attendees will be assigned a photo time based on arrival to the event," says Lyndsi Lane, Chattanooga Times Free Press marketing manager. "We will accommodate as many people as possible."

Last year's inaugural event, featuring Nickelodeon's Victoria Justice, star of "Victorious," was a huge success, says Lane, and expectations are that this year's event will be the same.

"Last year's crowd was huge and we expect the same this year," she says. "We encourage people to purchase their tickets in advance so they can enjoy faster entry into the expo."

Jason Taylor, Chattanooga Times Free Press president and general manager, says the event is geared toward families and the large crowds last year were a good learning tool for the new Kidz Expo.

"Our goal with the second year was to keep the event a safe, affordable and fun-filled day for families to be together, while improving the experience with more activities and improved crowd control," Taylor says.

Along with the "Austin & Ally" stars, costumed Disney characters will be on hand to greet children, Lane says.

Attendees also will be able to watch dance teams perform, see martial arts demonstrations and listen to choirs. For parents, more than 100 vendors will be on hand, offering information on family entertainment and dining choices, advice on how to save for college and details on summer camps, health and wellness.

Just like last year, a Healthy Baby contest also will take place at the expo. Children ages 1-3 will compete for honors as the region's healthiest, most beautiful and most personable babies.

Contest finalists will be selected from preliminary competitions held at Walnut Square Mall in Dalton, Ga., on March 16 or Hamilton Place mall on March 30. Parents interested in entering a child must register by March 16 for these events. Visit http://timesfreepress.com/site/kidzexpo/2013/baby.php for details.

Kidz Expo is sponsored by Children's Hospital at Erlanger and McDonald's. Zone sponsors are Dr. Keith Dressler, Trust Federal Credit Union and the Tennessee Aquarium.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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