It’s a warm Saturday afternoon in July at Buffington Memorial Park in downtown Gold Beach.
The delicious smell of barbecued burgers wafts through the air. The laughter of children is everywhere.
Bryan Grummon sports a bright-blue Rotary t-shirt. He’s a past president of the local chapter and lead organizer for today’s activities. He points to an expanse of multi-colored tents set up on the lawns.
There, some 200 youngsters, parents in tow, are interacting with a handful of community volunteers who have committed their Saturday to making it a special day for the kids.
The tents house more than 20 civic groups and organizations, each one with a special game or activity for Curry County youth and others during this year’s annual “Party in the Park.”
“It sounds like they are having fun,” Grummon smiles, cocking one hand behind his ear.
“Party in the Park” was the brainchild of former area Rotarian Mitchell Kuljis about 12 years ago, according to Grummon. Kuljis wanted to promote a fun activity for the area’s schoolchildren during their summer break from school.
The Curry Public Library Board agreed with Kuljis’s vision and the two organizations put together a few games, with Rotarians cooking up lunch. “Party in the Park” got its start.
Gradually, additional nonprofits joined up to help broaden the scope and number of activities for the event.
Grummon said one of the side benefits has been a new-found alliance between civic groups and nonprofits. “It used to be that everyone went it alone,” he said.
“We are up to over 20 groups here. And now, when one of them has a project or fundraiser that is important to that group, the others are coming alongside of each other.”
Grummon said this year’s event attracted youngsters and families south from Brookings and north from Port Orford.
“I would say about a third of the kids here are from out of the area,” said Grummon, “or are from the families of tourists just passing through who saw our signs and decided to check it out.”
What they saw impressed them.
Ron Beamon, from the San Francisco Bay area, was at the party with his girls, Emily and Cheyene. Beamon had just arrived in town after checking out the Redwoods south of here.
Grinning, he watched Emily having her face painted. She wasn’t moving a muscle for fear of smudging the end result, even as her dad teased her into a smile.
“We saw the signs and the girls wanted to go,” said Beamon. “When I found out it was free, I was blown away.
“With all the work the community was putting in here, I thought, this is a place where I could settle down in.”
“Toy Story 4” was this year’s theme. Pixar characters “Woody” and “Buzz Lightyear” were evident throughout the sponsored booths.
Drawings will be held later to determine event activity prizewinners, with the grand prize a trip with Jerry Rogue Jets up the Rogue River.