Ribbon cuttings tend to be dignified affairs, including remarks by officials leading up to the ceremonial snip — but a kind of mob mentality prevailed Friday when a revamped playground opened in Mount Airy.
As Mayor David Rowe wielded a pair of oversized gold-colored scissors, the air at Riverside Park was filled with eager anticipation as a throng of local kids waited to get the first crack at an array of new equipment teasingly standing nearby.
And when the cut pieces of yellow ribbon dropped, the children immediately dashed into the new playground with the fervor of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889.
However, city officials did not mind the onslaught at all, as the kids’ reaction to the refurbished playground was exactly what they wanted to see.
“I’m thrilled with the turnout,” Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander said of the gathering that attracted more than 100 people, including a large group of children and parents along with city government officials, staff members and community leaders.
The previous playground at the park underwent a $105,427 upgrade during June which involved the installation of new slides, swings, rides and multi-purpose units that collectively proved to be a big hit with the youngsters.
“I love it!” was the reaction from Alyssa Collins, 7, as she took a brief break from a piece of equipment boasting an array of tubular and other slides. “It feels so good.”
Alyssa’s mom, Mary, also gave the revamped facility high marks.
“We came here before it was done,” she said of the playground project. “It’s so much nicer and cleaner.”
Kids were spotted at the playground throughout the day Friday in the wake of its morning reopening.
Earlier effort honored
While Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the new, it also paid homage to the old — the previous, Build a Dream playground that resulted from a volunteer effort by local businesses and individuals in 2003-2004.
“They gave this space more than a spectacular playground, but a play space this community was a part of creating and could be truly proud of,” Alexander, the city parks and recreation director, said in opening remarks before the ribbon cutting. She especially cited the leadership role of local businessman Ben Cooke in making the original project a reality.
Since the Build a Dream playground contained wooden implements, there was some deterioration over the years — leading to safety and maintenance issues and the decision to upgrade the site with new equipment. The powder-coated metal structures installed meet national playground safety standards.
“This is merely a continuation of that gift,” Alexander said of the new items in reference to the original components of the playground, with plans calling for some of those to be incorporated into landscaped areas.
The playground was closed in early June so the older structures could be removed and the site prepared for the new custom-design equipment.
Among the new items are a sonic spinner, football spin-around, spring rider/police bike, lily pad weave, full bucket bay, seesaw assembly and others. The life expectancy of the equipment is 20 to 25 years.
Alexander credited a team effort by municipal recreation, grounds and facilities maintenance and other personnel “who have lived out here the past two weeks” to get the playground project completed in time for Friday’s ribbon cutting and reopening.
And the public expressed its appreciation by showing up in large numbers.
“I am very pleased, with it being a holiday weekend,” the parks and recreation director said of the attendance.
“A lot of people are out of town for the weekend,” Alexander added. “But we wanted to have it (the playground) open for the holiday.”
City Manager Barbara Jones also offered remarks during Friday’s program, but seemed to sense that the children present were not there to listen to speeches.
“We’re going to move it along so you can play,” Jones told the kids.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.