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Parents traveling with children this holiday season will have an easier time as they wait for their flights in the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Awaiting them at Gate 14 are a plastic slide, see-saw, miniature Silverado truck and other toys donated by Fisher-Price of East Aurora. Fisher-Price also has remodeled its play area in the food court before the security gates.

"There are times when you're waiting for planes and you're looking for something to do," said Chuck Scothon, senior vice president of marketing and brand development, and the father of a 3-year-old daughter. "When families are traveling in Buffalo, they will have a good experience for their children."

And the 4 million people passing through the airport each year will see Fisher-Price's name and toys.

Carmen Diaz and Carlos Adorno stopped by the Playgate on their way to catch a flight to Washington, D.C., to enjoy a family vacation with Carlos, 1, and Sofia, 2.

"It's a great idea. Many places have to do the same thing because children want to play and don't know about waiting quietly," said Diaz, who lives in Puerto Rico.

All the toys are large, both to ensure they stay put and that they pose no choking hazard to the youngest of travelers. Fisher-Price employees will visit the Playgate every week to check on the condition of the toys.

"This may be a test case for future airports," Scothon said.

While the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority was able to donate the space, many airports don't have enough room for a Playgate. Eric Mower and Associates of Buffalo designed the Playgates.

Fisher-Price invited Michele Berkheiser and her 20-month-old daughter, Sienna, to the unveiling of the Playgate. Berkheiser said her family travels often to visit relatives in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and friends in Colorado. Traveling with young children has become more difficult for her since airports imposed tighter security.

"Before all the new regulations, we would get here with enough time to get to the gate, but not enough that you were sitting around waiting. Now you have to be here 1 1/2 to two hours before," said the Town of Orchard Park resident. "This will keep them busy."

The remodeled play area in the food court has been there since the airport opened in November 1997. Fisher-Price has added a colorful mural of Little People flying in planes on one wall and Rescue Heroes flying jets on another in this room, where you can still catch the faint scent of new carpeting.

A floor-to-ceiling clock with airplanes for hands will make sure parents can keep an eye on the time.


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