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Groups partner to offer free Movies in the Park

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Shelly Birkelo
July 18, 2012

— You've most likely been to an indoor or drive-in movie theater, but have you ever been to a movie in the park?

If not, Janesville Leisure Services and the Tuesday Morning Optimist Club of Janesville have partnered to bring you the experience.

On the third Friday of the month now through September, free outdoor movies will be shown at Optimist Park, corner of Wuthering Hills Drive and Ruger Avenue.

Before each movie, pre-movie activities will be offered. These will include garden tractor-pulled train barrel rides, a water balloon toss and, for this Friday's showing of "The Smurfs," a "dress in blue" theme is in place

Those who are interested will be allowed to bring their own movie snacks or picnic dinners. For those who'd rather not go to the trouble, candy, popcorn, soda and water will be available for purchase, said Shelley Slapak, acting recreation director for Leisure Services.

Slapak and Al Draeger, a longtime member of the Tuesday Optimist Club, had been discussing hosting movies at Optimist Park for years.

"The park doesn't get used as much as we would like, so I thought it'd be a win-win situation for both parties if we did a movies in the park series," Slapak said. "Plus it provided a new low-cost family recreational opportunity as well as another reason for people to come to Optimist Park."

Leisure Services will provide the sound system and a new movie projector while the Optimists bought the movie screen.

"It's a great investment and we hope to make some money on concessions and donations to help offset that cost," Slapak said.

Initially, the Optimists built a 10-by-12-foot frame to hold the movie screen, but set-up was time consuming and the screen couldn't withstand wind. Club members authorized making a $1,000 donation to buy an inflatable 9-by-16-foot white reflective screen designed specially for movies, Draeger said.

"The image will be just like if you went to a drive-in movie or indoor theater," he said.

Attendance at the first movie, "Field of Dreams," shown June 15 was about 125 people, Draeger said.

Along with Friday's showing of "The Smurfs," upcoming films will include "The Wizard of Oz," on Aug. 17, with a "Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My!" theme and a balloon stomp pre-movie activity; and "The Muppets" on Sept. 21, with a "Life is a Happy Song" theme and "Face the Cookie" pre-movie activity.

Those attending should bring blankets and lawn chairs, Slapak said.

Draeger said Movies in the Park is a trend that has been in motion nationwide for at least the last couple years.

"All across the country almost every city has them including Lake Geneva, Middleton, Beloit and Loves Park (Ill.),'' he said.

"It's free and a way to bring families together to come out and have a good time," Draeger said.



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