Out of the parking lot and down the stairs they came, past the Volunteer Park picnic shelter and playground, and onto the path to the lower field. They came carrying folding chairs and cozy blankets, baseballs and frisbees, insulated coolers packed with cold drinks and popcorn.
Folks of all ages came to catch the free movies shown every Friday night throughout August at Volunteer Park, courtesy of the Key Pen Parks' Cinema Under the Stars program.
Jessica Smeall, recreation coordinator for Key Pen Parks, said the turnout for the first movie of 2013 was by far the biggest she had seen, estimating 130 people in attendance.
According to Smeall, attendance was impressive, as outdoor movies are being shown in plenty of other nearby locations this summer.
"Our mission is to provide things on the Key Peninsula so that people don't have to drive," Smeall said.
Tanya Slater, who was pushing her 2-year-old son Noah on the swings before the first movie of the season, had been to outdoor movies elsewhere and was pleased with the shorter drive.
“The tiered area is perfect,” she said. “The one in downtown Gig Harbor is nice, but they don't have the seating.”
Slater was referring to the four grassy terraces which were put in place in 2009 by the Lions Club in order to provide an outdoor amphitheater and provide drainage for the upper field.
Although movies have been shown in the park on summer evenings since 2005, the Cinema Under the Stars program did not officially begin until 2011. That first year, movies were shown on the field adjacent to the highway, but once the terraces were installed at the lower field, the event was moved there to make use of them.
Nikki Menchaca-Riddle, who has been catching the outdoor movies with her daughter Mallory since 2011, was also happy with the lower field location. “It's so much better. The screen doesn't catch the wind as much," she said.
The inflatable screen was purchased in 2010 with money donated by CenturyLink. CenturyLink continues to be a major financial sponsor of the program, helping to pay the licensing fees required to show the movies. Jan Kampbell, CenturyLink's public relations and market development manager for Western Washington, said the company's interest in promoting local events.
“We strive to support our communities in a number of ways. It takes us back to a time when community members really gathered together.”
Attendees were also encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to FISH food bank.
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