The parade of colorful animal masks took a winding route through the crowd at Marion Square on Saturday.

The bright whimsical masks, carried atop the heads of Ashley Hall students, moved steadily to the beat supplied by two able young drummers.

The peacock in the parade, also known as fifth-grader Lydia Cook, wore a mask of black, white, orange and blue with five peacock feathers on top. Cook, who lives in West Ashley, and more than a dozen schoolmates participated in the Piccolo Spoleto Children's Festival, "Carnival of the Animals."

"We hope the children feel happy and excited to see us," Lydia said. The parade was among many events designed to engage children this festival season. Other children's activities Saturday included face painting, hula hoops, storytelling and arts and crafts.

Another event in Marion Square was the Instrumental Petting Zoo, held by Chamber Music Charleston, with assistance from the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. Professional musicians taught the children how to make sounds with the instruments.

Sandra Nikolajevs, director and founder of Chamber Music Charleston said their goal is to inspire children to develop a continuing interest in music. Instruments frequently selected by the children included the recorder -- a medieval woodwind instrument -- cello and violin.

At St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, "Dr. Bob and His Flying Circus" entertained children with clowns, jugglers and a strong man.

There, Stephen Konopasek of Atlantic Beach, Fla., found the clowns particularly engaging. Konopasek, a 10-year-old fourth-grader, said their cartwheels and somersaults impressed him. Many children in the audience appeared to find the competitive spirits of two cats, who each sang "meow" in her own style, entertaining.

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705 or