Inflatable bouncers, face painting, bingo, food and music are just a few highlights of the Summer Night Lights events, which kick off Friday night.
“Summer Night Lights is a free, block-party style program that occurs weekends in July and August,” Parks and Recreation Program Coordinator Brian Harrell said.
This summer is the third year for the popular series, which was adapted from a crime-reduction effort launched in 2008 in Los Angeles. Over the years, Harrell’s staff has grown the program from two parks in the east and south parts of the city to six parks, adding locations near residents in Central and West Rocky Mount along with the Battleboro community.
“Initially, we started the program to help reduce crime and engage teenagers, but it has shifted to break down barriers and give the community more access to the parks,” Harrell said. “It is an opportunity to bring families closer together and reconnect. So many times our youth are focused on technology and their parents are doing their own thing, but this really pulls them back together and gives them something fun to do.”
The program with activities scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. alternates between the parks – with Englewood and Bea Holman parks added to the calendar this year. The first several hundred guests will get a free hotdog, chips and drinks, but Webby’s Shaved Ice also will be on-site offering flavored icy treats to attendees.
“When we started the program three years ago people in other neighborhoods heard about the total involvement of the city and saw the great coverage in the paper,” City Manager Charles Penny said. “Then other neighborhoods wanted Summer Night Lights in their neighborhood, so we have tried to accommodate as many neighborhoods as possible.”
Teen Services Coordinator Francheskia Fenderson is looking for pre-teens and teenagers to compete in the 3-on-3 basketball games held July 25 and Aug. 8 at Englewood Park. Teams should be organized beforehand and register the night of the event, where the winners will receive gift cards.
“Each event really is what you make it to be,” Harrell said. “If you just want to relax, you can do that, but we have inflatables and Bingo and music. We really have a little bit of something for everybody, so it is a great time to just get out on a Friday or Saturday night and have fun in your community.”