A day for play
Healthy living campaign rolled into Chico Kite Day, new map of local parks released
Every year since 1985, Chico Kite Day has drawn local families together for a simple day of flying colorful kites and running around on the grass.
Lisa Almaguer, marketing director at Chico Area Recreation and Park District (CARD), is striving to make sure that spirit remains intact at this year’s event, the first ever not organized by Bob Malowney, owner of the downtown gift shop Bird in Hand. After nearly 30 years of spearheading Chico Kite Day, Malowney simply felt it was time to pass the torch along, Almaguer said.
This year’s event—to be held at Community Park off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway on March 23—will serve as a platform for Let’s Play Outside!, a healthy eating and active living campaign involving a number of local businesses and organizations, including Let’s Move! Chico, the local arm of first lady Michelle Obama’s national program to address childhood obesity.
As promoting fun physical activity is one of the campaign’s top priorities, Let’s Play Outside! began hosting Play Days last fall, intending to engage families with young children at different parks around town.
“We find an active sponsor each time,” Almaguer said during a recent interview. “For example, in September, we had NorCal Strength & Conditioning come out and set up an obstacle course for kids. Then we had Just Jump It come and provide their agility and balance jump-roping equipment.”
At each Play Day thus far, representatives from local companies Mary’s Gone Crackers and Klean Kanteen have been on hand to promote healthy living along with their products. To encourage participation, the first 30 attendees who sign in and participate in the day’s activities get free canteens, while free crackers and cookies are available to all.
“We wanted to have local businesses [that] people recognized that also contributed to healthy lifestyles: Klean Kanteen with the hydration aspect—you’re running around outside and you need water—and Mary’s Gone Crackers because kids need healthy snacks. They even have healthy cookies,” Almaguer said.
Let’s Play Outside! hosts a Play Day every other month, and since the last Play Day was held in January, it seemed natural to roll the next event in with Chico Kite Day. But Almaguer emphasized that, while Let’s Play Outside! sponsors will readily discuss healthy living with those interested, the intent is not to change the longtime Chico tradition.
“The point of Kite Day is flying kites,” she said. “Whether people come to Community Park or go to Upper [Bidwell] Park, that’s OK. If it’s raining that day, go out and do it the next day. The concept is just to have some free, wind-powered family fun.”
The Play Days are just one aspect of the campaign. Every other month, Let’s Play Outside! organizers hide a vinyl decal of the campaign’s logo in one of Chico’s parks and drops hints as to its location via CARD’s Facebook page. For example, when the decal was hidden at Hooker Oak Park, the clue was “a park in the northern part of Chico, home to the oldest oak tree in the known universe,” Almaguer said. “For DeGarmo Park, it was ‘home to the largest spider web in Chico,’ because it has that big spider-web climbing structure.”
When a kid finds the decal, he or she takes a photograph with it and posts the photo on CARD’s Facebook page; at the end of two weeks, Almaguer sorts through the photos and the most creative one wins. (Hint: Posing just like the girl in the logo—with arms overhead and one leg extended backward—is the most common type of photo Almaguer encounters.) Prizes include gift certificates, jump ropes, T-shirts, stickers and “just fun stuff for kids,” she said.
Patti Horsley, a health-education specialist at Chico State’s Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion (CNAP), explained that the Let’s Play Outside! campaign emphasizes outdoor play over exclusively indoor play because “there are so many mental, physical and emotional benefits when kids are outside playing,” she said.
“It lets kids be active and burn energy; they’re more able to focus, and they get those cardiovascular benefits of being physically active,” Horsley continued. “Playing on playgrounds also gives them the opportunity to socially interact with peers, and interacting with nature has a lot of developmental benefits.”
As such, a component of the campaign is the recently released Chico Parks and Playgrounds Map, complete with a legend compiled by student volunteers who surveyed each of Chico’s 16 parks. The legend distinguishes which parks have amenities such as bike racks, water fountains, walking paths, restrooms, volleyball courts, playground equipment, picnic tables and shady areas.
“A lot of us don’t know about the different parks available to us in this city,” Horsley said. “A lot of families I know won’t go to parks because there aren’t bathrooms or [there is] no shade.
“So, we want the parks map to be a resource that would help families learn about new options so they can get outside, pick a new park each weekend and go play.”