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Wichita parks offering free, cheap entertainment for kids - and adults - through May

A young bobcat was part of the attractions at the Great Plains Nature Center during the Walk with Wildlife event in 2016.
A young bobcat was part of the attractions at the Great Plains Nature Center during the Walk with Wildlife event in 2016. Wichita Eagle

Looking for some free things to do in a park – like fishing, walking or eating hot dogs?

Wichita Park and Recreation is kicking off a schedule of events in a local park every week from Saturday through May, starting with a new guided walking event in Central Riverside Park and its popular O.K. Kids Day at O.J. Watson Park.

At O.K Kids Day, kids ages 5 to 12 can learn to fish, kayak, do archery and eat hot dogs while supplies last. (This event has been postponed to May 19, according to the Park and Recreation's Facebook page.)

Saturday's events are all free.

Some of the upcoming events are part of national, state or local efforts to get people outside and moving, while others just showcase some fun things to do, like fly a kite.

Here's a look at what's coming up through the end of May, with several of the events being free:

Outdoor Kansas for Kids, or O.K. Kids, Day: 9 a.m.-noon Saturday at O.J. Watson Park, 3022 S. McLean Blvd. (This event has been postponed to May 19, according to the Park and Recreation's Facebook page.)

For more than 20 years, kids have learned to fish at this popular annual event. In the past, as many as 3,000 kids have come out, said Brian Hill, manager of Watson Park, which is one of more than 40 sites in Kansas that participates in O.K. Kids Day. Free hot dogs and T-shirts will be given away, while supplies last. Another outdoor event, Play Healthy ICT, with more activities, including free bike and helmet giveaways, is scheduled for 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Watson Park. Events are free.

Walk in the Park: 11 a.m. Saturday at Central Riverside Park, 720 Nims N. and 11 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Chisholm Creek Park, 3228 N. Oliver.

A new series of events, Walk in the Park, will be led by rec center fitness instructor Cindy Cantayer. Once a month through September, she'll take participants of all ages on an hour-long walk of about 3 miles through a Wichita park. Saturday's walk is through one of Wichita's oldest parks, Central Riverside Park, and meets at the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit. At May's Chisholm Creek Park, walkers will take paved trails through the different native and restored habitats, starting at the Great Plains Nature Center. Free.

Get Fit Wichita: 9-10 a.m. and 11 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 28, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, 300 S. Sycamore.

Anyone ages 16 and older can ride without going anywhere during two hour-long stationary bicycle classes happening on the ballpark field. Pre-registration is preferred. Free.

Come Fly a Kite: 2-5 p.m. Saturday, May 5, Chapin Park, 2400 E. MacArthur Road.

This is another popular event where all ages can get hands-on flying instruction with their own kites or ones they buy for $5 on-site. The kite shop Wings of the Wind will also put on professional flying demonstrations. Free.

Watson's Wacky Putt-Putt Tournament: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, Watson Park.

There are two age categories – 16 and older and ages 6-15 – for this tournament. Prizes will be given to the top three miniature golfers in each category; everyone gets a free T-shirt. Cost is $15; registration required.

Walk with Wildlife: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, May 19, Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St.

In its 34th year, Walk with Wildlife features animal stations of more than 50 species of insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds along a 1/2-mile handicapped accessible trail in Chisholm Creek Park. There's usually a free fishing clinic for kids, too, with a paid Walk with Wildlife admission of $2.

Kids to Parks Day: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, May 19, Watson Park.

“It's like O.K. Kids part two,” said Hill, park manager. Paddle boats, kayaking and miniature golf, which usually have a fee, can be done for free. Part of a national event, Kids to Parks is for ages 5-18. The park and rec's Mobile Recreation Station will also be there to offer some other physical activities to try. Free.

May Mahem(sic) Volleyball Tournament: 8 a.m. Saturday, May 19, Watson Park. Sand volleyball has become a popular activity at Watson Park, said Hill, with 18 teams signed up for the park's spring league. While not part of league play, the tournament is an opportunity for co-ed teams of six players to play at least four games and compete for prizes. Fee is $40 per person. Registration required.

Magic show: 10 a.m.-noon, Saturday, May 26, Chester I. Lewis Reflection Square Park, 205 E. Douglas. Along with the magic show, the Mobile Recreation Station will appear during this event. Free.

More events are planned in Wichita parks during the summer. For more information or for required registrations, visit www.wichita.gov/ParkandRec/Pages/Events.aspx

The popular children's train at O.J. Watson Park had recently fallen into disrepair. After much debate, the Wichita City Council decided that a new train was a worthwhile investment. The train opened to the public in late April 2016.

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