JANESVILLE—Jump down a rabbit hole.
Watch a movie in a park.
Play giant Jenga at the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville.
On Saturday, June 8, Downtown Janesville Inc. and a variety of community partners are hosting Playpalooza, an event designed to bring kids and families, well ... downtown. It is also 608 Day, so there will be plenty for adults to do, too.
“It’s a great way to experience downtown,” said Christine Rebout, executive director of the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s changing almost on a daily basis.”
For those of us who have worked downtown for years, the heart of the city does seem to have changed overnight. The parking lot over the river is gone, and the river has become more accessible to canoes and kayaks. A fountain on River Street, which has been named “The Bubbler,” provides a light show at night and in summer will offer relief from the heat. Boutique shops have popped up on West Milwaukee Street, and the farmers market has more vendors than ever.
Even better: Parking is still free.
Playpalooza will focus on kid-friendly activities, and 608 Day will feature specials at downtown businesses, a scavenger hunt, a concert and movie in the park, and an Aruna Run. In most cases, events will be suitable for everyone in the family.
The day starts at 8 a.m. with the opening of the Janesville Farmers Market. The start of the farmers market also marks the beginning of an all-day scavenger hunt and specials at downtown businesses.
At 9 a.m., the Aruna Run begins in the Town Square, at the corner of River and Court streets. Along with the run, there will be be live music and games for kids.
The Aruna Run benefits the Aruna Project, which focuses on working to free women
working in brothels in India. Local race sponsors cover the expenses for the event, so all registration fees and donations go to help enslaved women find new beginnings.
From noon to 5 p.m., Playpalooza begins in earnest. A trolley will circulate through downtown for shoppers and families from noon to 8 p.m.
Where should you begin with your kids? Take your pick:
- Hedberg Public Library, 316 S. Main St.
The library is working with the Rock County Historical Society and the Janesville Performing Arts Center for a series of “Wonderland”-themed events. This summer, JPAC’s youth summer camp will rehearse and perform its production of “Alice in Wonderland Jr.”
Kids will have the opportunity to go down a rabbit hole, play croquet, attend a tea party and play other games based on the Lewis Carroll story.
The Rock County Historical Society will provide several historical games such as hoop and stick, musical chairs and a game of graces, which is much harder than it looks.
Mariah Smitala, youth services librarian at Hedberg, said the library is located “at the far edge of downtown.” As a result, families tend to fall into to two categories: Those that have been to the library but have never explored downtown and those that have been downtown for the farmers market but never traveled outside those two blocks.
“We’re trying to be a part of everything that is going on downtown,” Smitala said.
Playpalooza gives the library (which is being remodeled) a chance to connect itself to the changes going on downtown while adding a literacy component to the mix, Smitala said.
- The Boys & Girls Club, 200 W. Court St.
“This is an easy one for us,” said Sara Stinski, executive director at the Boys & Girls Club.
That’s because fun is part of what the group provides every afternoon during the school year and all day during the summer.
Games will take place outside on the lawn at the corner of Court and River streets and inside the building. Look for giant Jenga, a massive tic-tac-toe board and a variety of other activities.
Stinski also sees Saturday’s activities as a chance to showcase the club’s facilities, which are open to all families.
“We’ve got so much going on here,” she said.
Other play events are:
- Fitness court, corner of River and Court streets: Giant “Operation” and bowling games.
- YMCA, 221 Dodge St.: Open swim, open gym and bounce houses.
- North Main Street: “Connect Four,” Putterball and Flying Scot races.
- Marvin Roth Pavilion, corner of Main and Court streets: Doodle Mash game.
Finish the day with a concert at the Town Square at 6 p.m. followed by a movie at 8 p.m.