A Merry Production, “A Miracle on 34th Street”

Westerville Parks and Recreation Civic Theatre’s first holiday production is coming to life December 11, 12 and 13 at Westerville South High School. The classic story of “A Miracle on 34th Street,” will be performed in a radiocast format.

“After a great run with ‘Seussical’ this summer, we started looking for a special holiday show to bring to the Westerville community,” said Derrick McPeak, Westerville Parks and Recreation Program Leader. “When the script for this radiocast came our way, we knew we could have a lot of fun with this type of production.”

You may be wondering what a classic radiocast entails, so here’s a preview of what to expect.

The production is set in a fictional 1940’s Westerville radio station as actors re-enact a holiday tale during a live radio show.

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“As soon as you take your seat in the theater, you become part of the live studio audience for this radio broadcast,” said McPeak. “The nine actors enter the stage as if coming into work for the day. From then on, you will see these ‘players’ tell a ‘A Miracle on 34th Street’ through voice work and sound effects.”

Many of the actors play several different characters that are completely unique.

“I have been directing shows for many years and I love to act too, but had not found the right opportunity perform in a while. When I learned about this script and the ability to play multiple characters in one setting within seconds of each other, I had to audition,” said Cast Member Luke Bovenizer.

Actress Debbie Schindehette was drawn to the radiocast style as well.

“It has been a fun challenge developing the characters, and there has been a lot creative freedom during this process. I’ve been playing around with accents while raising and lowering my voice to make sure each role is distinct,” she said.

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Although you will not see every piece of scenery or costume that is mentioned, you will hear everything. Patrons will see a foley artist create sounds to make the story come alive audibly.

“From car horns to footsteps, our foley artist, Tiffany Sisson, does small reenactments of these motions rather than using a sound board. She really is our 10th actor,” said McPeak. “The sounds she produces make this show full-bodied whether you watch in the theater or if you were to actually listen over the radio. You should be able to close your eyes the entire time and know exactly what is going on.”

But that doesn’t mean there will be a lack of visual entertainment.

“The actors never leave the stage expect during intermission. They get to improv in their ‘down time’ during the work day in the background. So the actors may seem relaxed reading a magazine, but they have to stay focused and stay in character for an hour straight,” he said.

This means every show will be a little different and even interactive.

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“We want you to laugh, cry and cheer as you would at a live talk show. The entire experience is meant to be engaging, and the cast gets to play off the crowd’s energy each performance. There will even be an applause sign that will light up for the audience to clap.”

And in the words of Kris Kringle, or at least Michael Dwyer who plays him, this is a performance you won’t want to miss. “This production combines the nostalgia of a story we know and love with a spin. It is sure to get you and your family in the holiday spirit.”

Tickets for “A Miracle on 34th Street” are still available, and can be purchased in advance at the Westerville Community Center for $10. For more information, please call 614-901-6500 or visit www.westerville.org/art.

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Creative Arts

More than Puppy Playtime

On a sunny night after work, you’ll find Westerville residents and visitors walking their dogs up the hill on Park Meadow Road to the Brooksedge Bark Park. Wagging tails and all, excitement emanates from the dogs as they approach the gate. And if you look closely, the dogs aren’t the only ones happy to be there; the owners themselves are cracking a smile too.

For 10 years, Brooksedge Bark Park has been home to countless games of fetch, tricks and treats. To many dog park patrons, the park has become much more than just a place for their canine companions to run off some extra energy.

“There is this natural community at the dog park. It is great to see familiar faces and dogs here everyday. It is not only the dogs developing friendships, we are to,” said Diedra Meysembourg.

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Diedra Meysembourg teaching her dog Savannah tricks

Meysembourg moved to central Ohio a few months ago from Georgia with her Labrador puppy, Savannah. “Living in an apartment, I knew I needed to find a space for Savannah to exercise,” she said. “I found the Brooksedge Bark Park and never felt the need to go anywhere else.”

Savannah’s favorite playmate is two-year-old Charlie, a Great Pyrenees. Both Meysembourg and Alex Weinberg, Charlie’s owner, agree that this type of socialization is important for the dogs.

“A big part of having a dog is socialization; and the dog park gives them that opportunity. It teaches dogs how to be together and it helps them learn better behaviors. It also gives your pet the chance to feel comfortable around other people and even kids,” said Weinberg.

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Alex Weinberg playing with his dog Charlie

So while the dogs wrestle, Weinberg and Meysembourg get to share laughs, stories and training tips.

Weinberg says, “It is nice to have others like Diedra around who care about their dog and my dog. It really is a supportive environment. Just recently, I was able to find a place to board Charlie by talking with people here.”

Late this summer, Mosaic Artist Vicki Murphy experienced this welcoming community firsthand as well. She was commissioned by the Westerville Parks Foundation to design and install a mosaic near the entryway of the bark park.

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Artist Vicky Murphy putting the finishing touches on the new mosaic

“I received so many encouraging words and dog kisses throughout the creative process. Before starting my own mosaic business, I was a teacher for many years so I enjoyed being able to talk with everyone especially the kids about the project,” said Murphy. “I hope the new mosaic will stem continued conversations about the park, the people and art itself.”

During one trip to the dog park, the Iyer family learned about the inspiration for the mosaic design and first-grader Gaia even helped put a piece of stained glass on the rock.

“Gaia loves the dog park and now she has had her hand in making it more beautiful. It is another reason this park feels like part of our yard,” said Anusha Iyer, Gaia’s mother.

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Gaia Iyer with her family dog Neo

The family’s strong love of the bark park prompted Anusha’s husband, Santosh Iyer, to create an online social group for other dog parents to connect. Regulars at the dog park use the outlet to coordinate times to meet up, share photos and advice.

The Iyers, Meysembourg and Weinberg all hope to see more people explore the Bark Park and take part in this niche in the canine community.

“If you’ve thought about visiting the dog park, be confident and come check it. There is a very high chance you and your pup are going to have a lot of fun,” said Meysembourg.

As the sun sets and dog park patrons pack up and wave goodbye, there is no doubt this special part of the Parks and Recreation Department is place for both canines and people to enjoy.

To learn more about the Brooksedge Bark Park and its amenities, visit the City website here.

Parks & Facilities

The Great American Campout

Hiking in the woods, stargazing and telling stories around the fire.

What do you remember about camping as a kid?

The memories that many families make together while enjoying nature and camping can last a lifetime.

Your next family adventure could be at the Westerville Parks & Recreation Great American Campout on Friday, September 11 at Heritage Park.

The Stein family participated in this overnight campout last year. It was the first time both seven year-old Alex and four year-old Zach went camping.

“The boys loved it. We already had a tent and thought it was a good way to introduce the kids to camping in a familiar setting,” said Jessica Stein, the boys’ mother.

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That was just what M.J. Smith, Westerville Parks and Recreation Naturalist, had in mind when launching the program.

“When I was a kid, I never got to go camping, and I always wanted to have that experience,” says Smith. “It inspired me to create this opportunity. This is a chance for first-time campers to get out in nature and try sleeping in a tent, all while still being close to home if younger children get uncomfortable.”

The event is a great for experienced campers as well.

“Our lives can get hectic, and even families who love to camp may have a hard time getting away. We supply the food, a space with restrooms and entertainment. Since participants don’t have to travel far or pack as many supplies as a typical camping trip, they can spend quality time with their families without having to worry about every detail,” said Smith.

After setting up tents, the night kicks off with a cookout, and of course, S’mores.

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“Kids get to learn how to safely make a meal over a campfire. There are a lot of children who either get overly excited around fire or scared. We want to avoid little ones swinging flaming marshmallows back and forth, so it is extremely important to go over the basics,” says Smith. “We teach them fire is a tool and just like a tool in your parent’s work box, you don’t use it without permission.”

As dinner wraps up, families can make craft before a night hike begins. Smith says the nature walk is her favorite part of the event.

“We walk the path together without flashlights looking for different kinds of animals and plants. Once everyone’s eyes adjust to the darkness, they realize they can actually see more and become better aware of their surroundings.”

The Stein brothers also enjoyed the night time experience. “It was really neat to see the park after hours; the moon was bright and helped guide our way,” said Stein. “Alex was a little afraid of the dark and held my hand, but he relaxed as we walked around and started using our other senses.”

After the walk, the group is free to play outside and then wind down for bed.

“I distinctly remember kids playing flashlight tag and my husband telling stories inside the tent before going to sleep,” said Stein. “I was surprised. We all slept well. It was quiet and you couldn’t tell we were still in the City.”

She says the whole family can’t wait to do the campout again. “We had a lot of fun. The kids learned new things and we got to unplug and make new memories together.”

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And what does young Zach Stein remember best?

“I found my first frog!” he exclaimed.

For more details on the Great American Campout and registration information, visit this link.

Education & Exploration

A Colorful Community Production, “Seussical”

Brilliant colors, bright personalities and beaming performances…the cast and crew of “Seussical” have come together to create an entertaining musical for all ages.

The Westerville Parks and Recreation Civic Theatre production of “Seussical” hits the stage this week at Westerville Central High School. The show runs July 30, 31 and August 1 at 7 p.m. with a final performance on August 2 at 2 p.m.

“This musical takes the stories of Dr. Seuss, including characters and images that we are very familiar with, like the ‘Cat in the Hat’ and ‘the Whos,’ and combines them into a clever show that teaches everyone a lesson about the true meaning of friendship and community,” said Derrick McPeak, Westerville Parks & Recreation Program Leader for “Seussical.”

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In its third year, Westerville Parks and Recreation Civic Theatre is continuing its commitment to providing a high-quality and family-friendly theater outlet for the City.

“Every year, we are growing our theater program and aiming to bring a professional and affordable experience to not only theater patrons, but to those participating in the production,” said McPeak.

After performing with Westerville Parks and Recreation Civic Theatre last year, Westerville resident Char Anderson was thrilled to act again this summer in “Seussical.”

“I’ve been doing local theater for 10 years; and this is best group I have ever worked with. It is absolutely a step up from many other community theater programs,” she said. “The staff is organized and respectful of the actors and their time. The whole team is so talented from the set to the lighting and costumes.”

And the cast and crew itself is embracing the show’s theme of friendship and community.

“I live five minutes from where we rehearse. So not only am I getting the opportunity to fine-tune my craft, but I am meeting new people and making friends with neighbors in Westerville,” said Anderson.

Despite a large cast of more than 100 actors, participants say the comradery that has developed in the past two months is astounding.

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“I went out on a limb and auditioned not knowing anyone else going out for show. Since the first meeting, I’ve felt included. Everyone is supportive and works really well together,” said Cast Member Luke Hassenpflug.

“Seussical” is also bridging generations as a wide-range of ages are involved in the musical. The show’s youngest cast member, six-year-old Claire Munger, is acting alongside fellow cast member and mom, Katey Munger. This mother-daughter duo is just one of a few families performing together this year.

“We have a lot of fun. We get to dance and play at rehearsals, and are constantly singing ‘Seussical’ around the house or in the car. It gives us another way to bond and spend time with one another,” said Munger.

Munger hopes other families can experience the arts together too.

“This theater group is filling a performance arts void in Westerville. It is important for children to see live theater. Now families here don’t have to travel far or break the bank to see a great kid-friendly show. They get to watch friends and colleagues perform, and see how talented their community is.”

Tickets for “Seussical” are still available for purchase at the Westerville Community Center for $10. For more information, visit www.westerville.org/art.

Creative Arts

A Hoppin’ Good Cause

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2014 Westerville Bunny Hop 5K Participants

Bunny ears, shiny medals and spring colors galore. It is no wonder the Westerville Bunny Hop 5K is one of the most vibrant races in town this time of year.

Cheery hues are not the only reason this races stands out. The motivation for many to run, walk or skip more than three miles on Saturday, April 4 is the Westerville Parks Foundation.

The Westerville Parks Foundation was founded in 2000 as a non-profit organization to assist the Parks and Recreation Department in funding projects and improvements outside the annual city operating budget.

“The Parks Foundation is a huge asset to the Parks and Recreation Department. There are elements in the community that you may come across every day that wouldn’t exist without it,” said Westerville Parks and Recreation Director Randy Auler. “The Foundation has helped bring the Train Depot, Mural on the Path and various public art installations to life in the City.”

And that is just skimming the surface of the Parks Foundation’s impact. Scholarships are awarded each year to numerous residents-in-need to supplement the cost of classes, passes or daily admissions to the Westerville Community Center.

“These scholarships are a life changer for many people. In many cases, an individual or family would not be able to participate in the wonderful programs the Community Center offers without a little extra help,” said Lisa Kluchurosky, Chair of the Westerville Parks Foundation. “Scholarship recipients get the chance to connect socially and improve their physical and mental health.”

Scholarship recipients say the same thing. Although she wishes to remain anonymous, one older adult shared her story of receiving a Foundation grant with us. She applied for aid two years ago after experiencing a drop in income.

“My doctor said I needed to walk, but I needed to do it safely. I live on a brick street in Westerville with no sidewalks,” she explained. “I’m in my seventies and use a cane, so if I fell on the bricks, it would take several strong men to lift me up off the ground.”

After accepting the scholarship, she started utilizing the Senior Center bus as transportation to the Community Center. And her walking around the track began.

“I try to go four times a week when possible and my goal is a mile. I am the slowest walker out there, and some days when I’m not feeling well I can only get a few laps in. But that is okay; something is better than nothing,” she said.

The positive environment at the facility keeps her coming back day after day.

“From the staff to fellow track users, they’ll watch me and say keep it up, you are doing a great job. That gives me more motivation to continue.”

Those encouraging words have turned into many friendships over time.

“One gentleman and his wife are there often. He speaks French and so do I. Now he brings me his French magazines when he is done reading them. Another lady loves to quilt and that is something we share when we catch up. So many people are friendly and willing to open up,” she chimed.

She has also seen an improvement in her health.

“My doctors have been thrilled with my progress. My blood pressure has gone down and my muscles are looser. Just a few weeks ago, my sisters came to town. I had not been going to the Community Center for a bit because I was afraid of falling on the ice and my left knee started hurting. They pushed me to starting walking again; and I went to the track following their visit and that knee improved. I just needed to get moving and my body responded.”

Although some days may be harder than others, she values the chance to get moving.

“The opportunity to use the track means the world to me. I thoroughly enjoy the Community Center. All the other benefits are just icing on the cake,” she said.

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Participants make their way to the start line at the 2014 Westerville Bunny Hop 5K

One of the largest fundraisers to provide scholarship opportunities to residents like this is the Bunny Hop 5K. Now in its fifth year, the Bunny Hop has truly become a community event.

“The 5K has something for everyone, from families to kids and elite runners,” said Kluchurosky. “We try to make it fun yet still competitive. When volunteering at the event last year, I was struck by how energetic and uplifting the atmosphere was. It was a little chilly that morning, but people were genuinely happy to be there and having a good time.”

“This race really goes to the heart of what parks and recreation is all about. It actively brings the community together in a friendly environment to enjoy one of our parks and the trails for a good cause,” said Auler.

To register for the upcoming Westerville Parks Foundation Bunny Hop 5K at Alum Creek Park North next Saturday, visit https://premierraces.com/westervillebunnyhop5k.

 

Parks & Facilities

Let’s Roll

It is described by many as a historic sport for modern times. But the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department sees log rolling as a competitive way to have a lot of fun too. This spring, the department is offering a new course on log rolling.

You may be asking: “What in the world is log rolling?” 

Log rolling has a history that dates back more than 100 years. As America was growing, the need for lumber grew as well. Lumberjacks transported logs down local waterways and frequently jumped from log to log on the rivers to keep wood moving downstream. The challenge and skill developed from rolling logs quickly turned into a sport outside the work day.


The popular sport in Wisconsin and Minnesota has transformed in recent years to become more accessible and user-friendly. At one point, 500-pound cedar logs were smoothed out and carpeted to be gentler on feet. However, this didn’t solve the issue of transporting a very heavy log. A synthetic log was later developed by the company, Key Log Rolling. This new type of log weighs only 65 pounds before it is put into water, making it much more mobile.


With the addition of a key log, the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department is one of the first to offer log-rolling courses in central Ohio. 

The man behind this new class is Parks and Recreation Program Supervisor Darcy Baxter. 

“We’re always looking to bring new adventure programs to the Community Center,” said Baxter. “I was at the Ohio State Fair last year, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources had this cool log-rolling exhibit. I had never seen the sport in person before, and a light bulb went off…our camp kids would love this.” 

And so far the Parks and Recreation employees training on the log are loving it as well. 

“You might be a little nervous the first time you get on the log, but you have to be able to laugh at yourself,” said Parks and Recreation Facilities Supervisor J.R. Fourqurean. “I fell off within two seconds of jumping on the first time. Now that we are all getting better, we are battling it out on our lunch breaks to see who is the best lumberjack. It really brings out the competitor in you in the best way possible.” 

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Beyond the fun factor, log rolling proves to be a well-rounded workout, improving balance, coordination, endurance and foot speed. 

“Since you are having a good time, the physical fitness aspect of log rolling sneaks up; and you end up getting a really good workout. Your legs are constantly moving while your core is stabilizing the rest of your body,” explained Baxter. 

Log rolling also strengthens mental focus and concentration. 

“You might think you just jump on the log and go. But, just like any other sport, log rolling takes specific techniques and strategies to be successful,” said Baxter. “For example, unlike a balance beam, you don’t look down at your feet and instead focus on the opposite end of the log. 

The four-week course starting April 12 is intended to teach beginners the basics, including safety, stance, timed trials and even some matches to try to knock other class participants off the log. To make it easier to learn, the log comes with different “training wheels,” which slow the log down so anyone can give it a spin.

Earlier this winter, ABC-6 Good Day Columbus Meteorologist Dana Turtle escaped the cold and tested his log-rolling skills at the Westerville Community Center pool. Check out his experience in this video.

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The log roll will be utilized at camps, community events and Highlands Parks Aquatic Center in the future. You’ll even get the chance to see the log roll in action at Party at the Creek on May 28.

For more information on log-rolling classes or to register beginning March 6, click here.

 

 

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