WORTHINGTON — This year’s fourth annual Park Hop event will have a slightly different feel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, the primary goal remains the same — getting kids outside to play while exploring some of the community’s many parks.
The Park Hop, coordinated each year by Johnson Builders & Realty, will take place Saturday, Sept. 12. The free event is geared toward children from the toddler years to about age 10, JBR’s Toni Brouillet said.
Children may arrive at JBR with a parent or guardian at 9:30 a.m., at which time they’ll be able to enjoy a morning snack. This takes the place of a lunch hosted in previous years at the conclusion of the Park Hop.
“They’ll be able to eat donuts here or take them with,” Brouillet said.
After that, children are encouraged to head out to play. In prior years, event volunteers led outdoor games and activities with youths during the Park Hop, but that won’t be the case this time around because of coronavirus concerns.
“It’s going to be a little different, but three of the parks this year will be having storybook trails,” Brouillet said. “We are taking kids’ books and laminating the pages, and they’re going to be placed on trees. Each tree will have a page or two on it, and kids will be able to hop from tree to tree and read the book.”
Younger children will be able to enjoy books geared toward their age bracket; older kids will have the opportunity to move around parks while reading an “I Spy” book. The storybook trail setup will be arranged at Slater, Chautauqua and Centennial parks, Brouillet said.
Meanwhile, Worthington’s Ehlers Park will be set up for a different kind of fun, as it will be designated for chalk. Children will be able to play hopscotch and enjoy other chalk-related activities at that site.
There will be no checklist sheets for children to have marked this year to receive door prizes, as all youths will receive a bag filled with assorted items upon visiting JBR in the morning.
“There will be things liked pencils, coloring books, jump ropes and more,” Brouillet said. “We’re also trying to get snacks and sponsored lunches, too.”
Event sponsors at press time include Worthington Optimist Club, First State Bank Southwest, Ocheda Orchard, Worthington Area YMCA, Noon Kiwanis Club of Worthington, Nystrom Orchard, United Prairie Bank, District 518 Community Education, Culligan, Fareway, Burger King, Applewhite Dental, The Stag, Forbidden Barrel Brewing Co. , Bedford Industries, Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center and the Worthington Regional Health Care Foundation.
Any excess funds raised through coordinating this year’s Park Hop will be donated to the Early Risers Kiwanis Club-led effort to add an all-inclusive playground at Chautauqua Park. This is the cause that benefited from last year’s extra funds, Brouillet noted.
While it’s hoped that next year’s Park Hop can be coordinated as it has in previous years, Brouillet said she still expects the event to be a fun opportunity for families to spend time together outdoors.
“The intent is still to have people get out and explore the parks,” she said.