Play Day draws families to Wichita park

Thousands of children and their parents attended the second annual Play Day in O.J. Watson Park on Saturday, organizers said.

With dozens of activities that included face painting, inflatables and train rides, there was no consensus on which was the day's favorite.

"It's the boats," said Ebony Johnson as she and her family walked up the pier after a paddleboat ride.

"No, it's the miniature golf," said her 10-year-old son, Horace Adams.

Johnson's husband, Emanuel Lopez, took no stand on the best activity. But he enthusiastically endorsed the Play Day concept.

"I think it's fun for the kids and the parents," he said. "It gets everybody out together to enjoy something."

Event organizer Barbara McGuire said she expected Saturday's attendance to exceed last year's estimate of 6,000. She said the concept is simple.

"Our focus is to try to do old-fashioned school games that people can do in their backyards or in parks," she said.

Play Day activities covered the east side of the 119-acre park at West 30th Street South and South McLean Boulevard. McGuire said 115 volunteers helped staff the booths, games and rides.

"The longest lines are for face-painting and inflatables," she said.

McGuire said the driving force behind Play Day was Wichita City Council member Lavonta Williams, who said she first heard of the concept at a National League of Cities conference three years ago.

After she discussed the idea with park officials, she said, Wichita organized its first Play Day last year. For two years in a row, the city has received a "Playful City USA" citation from a nonprofit organization that promotes finding great places for children to play.

Williams said the event wasn't only for children.

"It's not just a kids' day; this is a family day," she said.

Most parents seemed to agree.

"I think it's awesome," said Dawn Pennel as she struggled to get the shoes back onto the feet of 3- and 6-year-old daughters who had just been on an inflatable ride.

"It gives you the opportunity to be with the family," she said. "And it's totally free."