By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
Keiran Luitjens strolled onto the Swedesburg Parish Hall lawn from Olds United Church of Christ with his dog Mittens panting in his arms.
While the Pomeranian-shiatzu mix held her own for the majority of the two-mile hike from Olds to Swedesburg during the Swedesburg-Olds Fun Day on Saturday, June 16, it was the last quarter of the mile when the 95-degree heat exhausted her and she laid down in the middle of the road, Keiran said.
Now at the Parish Hall, Mittens happily lapped up water from a paper cup Keiran brought her as she sat in the shade with his brother Tristan Luitjens. At 10 years old, Tristan was the first runner to make his way from the face painting, crafts and bike decorating in Olds to the obstacle course, inflatable slide and lunch in Swedesburg.
With his family not far behind him, Tristan said that he preferred to run over biking, as some people chose to do. ?I just really like running and being active,? he said.
Before long, the Parish Hall lawn was busy with activity as families took their time walking from activity to activity or arrived in covered wagons pulled by horses. The Fun Day is organized by Healthy Henry County Communities (HHCC) every year and sponsored by area businesses. HHCC Director Kelly Carr said that although the attendance was down from previous years, she chalked that up to the heat.
?We like to provide free opportunities for people to get out, be active and have fun,? Carr said. ?We?re grateful to sponsors who make this happen.?
Scott Johnson, who rode in on bikes with his wife and three children, said his family has been attending the Fun Day every year since its conception. Johnson said that community is what?s lost in today?s culture, and events like this continue to bring out new people he has never met before.
?Something about small town America,? Johnson said.
Runner Amber Scott, of Winfield, agreed that the Fun Day was a good opportunity to engage with the community and come out for a free run ? even receiving a free T-shirt from HHCC given to all who attended.
Although the humidity and scorching sun made the two-mile run seem further than it is, Scott said the organized event was a good motivator to get out and run.
?You have to be dedicated to come run today,? she said.
Jocelyn Fulton, of Olds, was hot on Scott?s heels as they raced up to the Parish Hall. ?You just had to keep going or it?s going to get hotter and harder,? Fulton said.
Out on the obstacle course, 7-year-old Lilly Coffin struggled with maintaining her balance on a makeshift slack line. ?I just have to be confident and just do it,? she said as she tight roped from tree to tree. ?I?m dripping sweat,? Coffin also exclaimed.
Hailey Niehols stood on the sidelines of the obstacle course as she watched her children race through. Niehols said she brings her children every year for the good, clean fun, and that there?s something for children of every age.
On the other side of the lawn, Olds United Church of Christ pastor Carl Vass oversaw leather crafts, including making bracelets, necklaces and bookmarks.
As Carl handed a hammer to children to let them hammer in their names, initials or emblems such as fish, some bystanders commented that he was brave to let them hammer so close to his fingers.
But it didn?t faze Carl, who has enjoyed making leather crafts since he was 12 years old, and now enjoys passing on the tradition to the kids of Olds and Swedesburg.
Carl?s wife Elaine Vass watched him finish making a leather bracelet with TaVence Whitaker. ?To me as a pastor, it?s nice to get people into the church in a friendly way,? Elaine said about the Fun Day. ?We keep getting a good amount of people.?
As the noon hour approached, people began moving into the Parish Hall for the air conditioning and lunch before hopping back onto the covered wagons to take them back to their vehicles, still parked at Olds United Church of Christ.