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Community party mixes fun, information

May 19, 2019

Mariah Little lost count.

She had nine : or was it 10? : nieces and nephews running around inside McMillen Park Community Center on Saturday for the sixth annual Community Extravaganza.

“I have a lot of nieces and nephews,” the 29-year-old explained.

Her reason for coming to the event that mixes popcorn, games and prizes with information tables staffed by local vendors and nonprofit organizations was to help out her sister.

“Let the kids have a little fun, run around and tire themselves out,” Little said.

Ethan Birch, affectionately known as Six Eight, a reference to his height, kept things moving as the master of ceremonies. Whether it was overseeing an elementary-aged dance contest, calling out raffle numbers or introducing the Kingdom Steppers, Birch’s voice boomed throughout the venue.

“I got everybody excited about the Kingdom Steppers, and half of them done left,” he remarked at one point, when two of the four line dancers left the floor to address a problem with the recorded music.

Among the steppers was Ericia Wisdom, also known as Eeasy-E, who joined the group five years ago. After suffering a traumatic brain injury, she needed an activity that would boost her memory skills while getting her moving.

She grew up in the neighborhood, playing in McMillen Park but rarely going inside when it was an ice skating rink.

“I think this is a really great way they rejuvenated the area,” she said, looking around the community center. “I like how they’ve utilized this space. I think it’s cool.”

Camille Curry, one of the organizers, said the extravaganza was a way for the community to come together and for different groups to let people know what’s available.

The morning included health screenings for blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Parkview also distributed information about how to calm a crying baby, an effort to reduce the number of infants shaken by frustrated adults.

Up to 500 people have attended the one-day event in past years, Curry said.

Jennifer Hertenstein was there with her two sons, ages 8 and 9.

She plans to rely on its weekday summer program as a safe place for the boys during the hours when she and their father are both working.

“We love the center,” she said. “We’re always here. They wanted to come play some games (today).”