On a sweltering summer afternoon, there’s nothing quite like setting up a picnic in the shade of a tree. Lucky for us, Kalamazoo has 33 different parks for the community to enjoy. With social distance regulations still in place, parks a great way to safely gather. With this in mind, the City of Kalamazoo’s Parks and Recreation (Kzoo Parks) division in partnership with Lake Michigan Credit Union (LMCU) are continuing their two series of summer fun in local parks: Lunchtime Live! and the Summer Cinema Series.
The Lunchtime Live! series began seven years ago in an effort to encourage the downtown community to experience the outdoors and local food trucks on Friday afternoons. Recreation Manager Ashton Anthony said the event is a great way for people to release during the middle of the workday. “Getting out of the four walls that you’re in all day, away from looking at a screen is super important to us. We want people to get outside, get that fresh air, enjoy the park, and have some time away to release.” At its peak, almost 20 food trucks participated in the event. This summer, the event is limited to 15 vendors, a limitation that was not only set to align with safety standards but also based on feedback from businesses. “We don’t want to put people in harm’s way. So, we’re following CDC guidelines and from Lansing as well,” said Ashton. “We’ve put X marks on the sidewalks to mark off six feet from the food trucks and are encouraging everyone to keep their distance and wear their masks.”
Similar safety protocols have been put in place for the bi-weekly Summer Cinema Series also sponsored by LMCU. Hosted at a different park for every event, the free event is designed to help the community experience new green spaces. “We want to move it around to give everybody a chance to hopefully walk out their back door and into a park and watch a movie,” said Ashton.
The partnership between LMCU and Kzoo Parks began four years ago as a way for LMCU to support the community and act as a catalyst for change and growth. Senior Community Relations Specialist Kristina Green said the organization was determined to continue supporting these opportunities, especially during this period. “Families are looking for ways to get outside, remain active, and engage with their local community, even during these unprecedented times,” said Kristina. “From enjoying lunch and music outside every Friday afternoon in Bronson Park to showing movies in local parks every other Friday, it’s clear our partner is passionate about bringing these types of engaging events.” Because of the circumstances, the team at Kzoo Parks had to quickly adapt, something they couldn’t have done without the support of LMCU. “We’ve obviously had to cancel a couple of events that they’ve sponsored and they’re not knocking on our doors asking for refunds. They’re wondering how we can adapt and push forward. We are super lucky to have them as a partner,” said Ashton.
Open rain or shine, Kalamazoo’s parks provide our community with outdoor spaces to unwind and enjoy the great outdoors. Find your local park.