By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
The weather was unseasonably warm for Wyoming’s first WinterFest, making organizers a little nervous as to whether residents would visit the seven sites hosting activities.
Those worries were put to rest as by 9:30 a.m. the Wyoming Junior High School already was hopping with students and adults getting in some hoops in the gym, visiting booths in the halls, and snagging some breakfast and partaking in the cake walk game in the cafeteria. By 10:30 a.m., greeters estimated that they had gone through about half of its 300 bracelets that each of the seven locations received to help count participants.
“We are celebrating the success of the first One Wyoming WinterFest,” said Rachel Verwys, one of the event organizers. “Through the seven locations, we believe we connected with about 1,400 people through Wyoming for a fun-filled event that connected residents to one another and to community resources.”
Put together by the One Wyoming Community Collaborative, which is made up of a collaboration of school, businesses, government, churches, nonprofits and residents to improve the quality of life in the community, the Wyoming WinterFest was considered the next step in working to bring residents, community leaders and business owners together to start the dialog of what they can do to improve their neighborhood, according to Jon Shaker, the marketing director for the salvation army Kroc center, one of the sponsors for the event.
“This is really nice for the community,” said Marilee Taken, from Beverly Reformed Church, located just down the street from Wyoming Junior High School. The church was handing out mugs, shirts, and popcorn. “It is such a wonderful idea to bring the community together for something fun and a great opportunity to meet your neighbors.”
Having grown up in the area of the Wyoming Junior High School, Elevation Church Pastor Chris Hall said he was thrilled at the opportunity to bring community members together to enjoy some fun activities – Hall’s church was providing the basketball games – and fellowship.
Even before the actual event, the planning process brought together more than 40 partners, businesses, nonprofits, churches, the city residents and schools, Verwys said. The idea was to have various locations opened within the city to bring the residents and organizations from that neighborhood together to start their own dialog on what they could improve their neighborhood, Shaner said. Along with the Wyoming Junior High School, The DOCK/The PIER, Vanguard Charter Academy, Calvary Church, Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center, Community Church (Godwin Heights), and Grace Bible College all participated in the Wyoming Winterfest, which was Feb. 18. Locations were open at various times with each location offering food and an arrange of activities.
Many had planned winter activities. Hall said at the Wyoming Junior High School, there had been plans to have snow sculpting, but it was changed to fun with bubbles. “We just go with the flow,” Hall said.
As to whether the warmer weather helped the event, Verwys said she was not certain, but it certainly did not impede residents from attending.
“Another goal we accomplished was the connectivity to local community resources like health care organizations such as Metro Health Hospital, the library, KSSN, and the Girl Scouts,” she said. “The service volunteers provided at each location was amazing, WinterFest provided an avenue for about 350 people to serve generating well over 1,000 hours of service.”
With the Wyoming WinterFest deemed a success, One Wyoming is back at work planning future community-wide collaborations. Verwys said up next is a community-wide Earth Day event set for April 22.