Neighbors in southeast Fort Wayne came together in McMillen Park on Saturday to enjoy the weather, meet new neighbors, renew acquaintances, and enjoy food and music. They also shared resources for the coming summer.
The annual Community Extravaganza allowed them to find out about summer programs for kids that are offered through Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation and through nonprofits.
For the first time in its roughly nine-year history, the event was held outdoors. The weather was good for having everything outside this time, said Percinta Hunter, program office coordinator for McMillen.
“We do it every year to let them know about the programs we have and so they can sign up for the summer program,” said Andre Patterson, manager of the McMillen Park Community Center. “We do it to kind of kick-off the summer.”
“And we just like to celebrate with the community,” Patterson added.
Patterson said the McMillen Center has summer programs for children ages 5 and older, in two sessions, and offers pickleball for adults. Hunter said programs are free for kids and $1 for adult residents.
The event this year was sponsored by the McMillen Center and the Human Agricultural Cooperative. The agricultural program takes a holistic approach to working in the community and with collaboration, Simmons said. They teach kids farming but also give the food they grow to low-income families living in the community.
Besides the park sign-up tables, there was a DJ, bouncy castles, people selling arts and crafts, free hot dogs and popcorn, and nonprofits including Benchmark Human Services. Big Momma’s Kitchen gave away 400 barbecue meals, and people in programs from the McMillen Center, such as the ladies’ cardio program, gave demonstrations.
There were also programs that kids could sign up for, including the 23-year-old Fort Wayne Community Fishing Club.
That program teaches kids how to camp, how to fish and how to play chess, said John Holder, vice president of the Community Fishing Club. This year, the kids will also learn to tie fishing ties.
The event provides good engagement with the community for programs, said Torrez Golden, who was promoting Moneyball 3-on-3 basketball as CEO of Rezzlife Entertainment. It’s “face-to-face instead of digital,” he said.
Trealla Taylor, 11, has been coming to the community center for about seven years, and this year he worked the popcorn machine in the afternoon.
“It’s good for the community,” Taylor said.
The event is a chance for families to enjoy themselves, said Wilma Harris, who lives across the street from the park and has come to every Community Extravaganza. She looks forward to the annual event.
Harris said it’s good because of “all the reactions, all the trucks, all the free food and kids enjoying themselves.”
This was the first extravaganza that Nicholas Ricos attended, and he was meeting his neighbors. “It’s good that everybody’s enjoying themselves,” he said.
Batonica Tembo said, “It’s really good for kids to come out and play.” She was also there for the first time, bringing her 3-year-old niece, Azoria Johnson, and meeting people.
Marcus Mitchell Sr. has attended for seven years and called the event a peaceful time. It’s good “so we can get to know each other,” he said.
Money raised through the vendors will go toward the Human Agricultural Cooperative’s program to offer 10 scholarships of $1,000 each to graduating high school seniors.
“We partnered with them to start the scholarships,” said Ty Simmons of the Human Agricultural Cooperative.
Those interested in the scholarship for a high school senior or in donating to the scholarship fund can contact Simmons at email@example.com.