Last weekend at the North Hill Open Fresh Outdoor Market’s First Annual Kids Day, neighborhood children and their families were invited to come together at Bailey Oglesby Park for an afternoon of games and activities, many of which slipped in some information for the children about delicious, nutritious eating.
Tested by rain and fire (yes, fire!), neighborhood children, volunteers and vendors, all of whom are North Hill community members, did not let anything dampen their fun.
Akron native Angella Fawn organized and led most of the children’s festivities, which included sack races, hoola-hooping, foot races and parachute games, one of which involved bouncing bean bag fruits and vegetables on the parachute while learning about their nutritional value.
Sylvia Gage, who led pirate-themed crafts and activities, also worked with the young people. Gage said of the event, “North Hill got a boost at the beginning of summer from Better Block, and we are trying to keep the momentum going.”
Better Block took place in May, and sought to show residents, for two days, what the North Hill neighborhood’s future could be by temporarily transforming one block into a fully occupied, welcoming and engaging district, with pop-up businesses, as well as outdoor activities and events for the whole family.
Twenty-five year resident Laureen McGarry was on-hand to invite children to, “Eat the Rainbow.” She enabled attendees to sample various fruits and vegetables while learning about their health benefits. Produce vendors had all of McGarry’s offerings available for purchase. To make these nutritious foods accessible to all, the market accepts food stamps and assistance and will match up to $15 toward the purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
Summit County Public Health representatives handed out bottled water and literature about community health resources. Volunteer Victor Head provided recorded music, and city council candidate Andre Long brought and played African drums. Stray Dog Cart also was on-hand at the market serving hotdogs.
Fawn wanted to reward children for their collaborative, noncompetitive participation in the various activities. For each activity the children participated in, they received a ticket, which they could then use to enter a raffle for various prizes.
North Hill’s Ward 5 Councilwoman, Tara Mosley-Samples, a major supporter of the market, participated in the drawing and generously donated the prizes. Commenting on the event, the councilwoman said, “I think it is important to bring the community together to promote healthy eating and healthy living for the kids.”
The children also received treat bags, which were filled using funds from an anonymous $100 donation.
At-large Councilman Deandre Forney said he was eager to support the event and the children. “I grew up in the projects. I used to be one of these kids. I want to support them.”
Community organizer Beth Vild is at the helm of the market’s planning and day-to-day operation and is passionate about the market and the neighborhood. “It was important to create a farmer’s market that is for and by North Hill community members. Residents want to see this happen so much and are really excited.”
Expanding on Vild’s statements, Earth By April vendor and yoga instructor Nia Green spoke about the neighborhood she has lived in and loved for more than 30 years. “This park four years ago was crime ridden and uncared for. Our goal has been to take back this park. We got the city to manicure the park and we are giving the kids a safe place to play. We’re excited about having a younger generation, people like Beth Vild, get involved. They are helping and it is growing. We’re just getting started, but it’s a good start.”
As well as the planned activities, there were a couple of “opportunities” that organizers just couldn’t control. First, just as the festivities were getting underway, there was a sudden, torrential downpour. Instead of drowning participants’ enthusiasm, the rain brought out a playfulness in some of the children and children-at-heart, which broke the ice for those of us huddled under vendor tents waiting for a break in the weather.
When the rain stopped and everyone came together again, there was a connectedness –a stronger feeling of community. About an hour later, across the street from the park, there was a flash, followed by the shrill sound of fire engines and emergency vehicles. A squatter in an abandoned house had been cooking and started a kitchen fire. The fire was quickly contained, but the children’s enthusiasm was not. For the adults, the fire was a sudden and concerning interruption. For the children, the appearance of fire trucks took their fun afternoon and kicked it up a notch. As mayoral candidate Mike Williams, who was in attendance, said laughingly, “When you’re working with kids, one thing you can’t complete with is a fire truck, and you shouldn’t even try.”
If you didn’t get to North Hill for Kids’ Day, take heart. Organizers plan to make it an annual event. The North Hill Open Fresh Outdoor Market has many fun events on their schedule and is open weekly on Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information about the market, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/424374031065921/.
To learn about Nia Green’s free gentle yoga classes at the North Hill Library, as well as other North Hill Library events, go to http://www.eventkeeper.com/code/events.cfm?curOrg=ASCPL&curKey1=North%20Hill&setRef=new.