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DeKalb Park District hosts annual Polarpalooza with winter fun for everyone

Sunday’s frigid temperatures didn’t stop a few hundred folks from visiting Hopkins Park to ice skate, cross-country ski, build snowmen, roast s’mores and more during the DeKalb Park District’s Polarpalooza.

This was the fourth annual event, although it was canceled last year because of unusually warm temperatures.

It was a different story this year, as families frolicked in the snow-covered park to take advantage of the free outdoor activities, as well as the winter-themed crafts and hot cocoa inside the Terrace Room.

Beth Gregory’s 5-year-old daughter loves the snow, so the Sycamore resident said the whole family was looking forward to getting outside Sunday afternoon.

“This is a great family-friendly event,” Gregory said. “We liked the sledding and the s’mores. It’s nice that the community can come together, especially in the winter when everyone stays inside.”

Low temperatures didn’t intimidate the Thornton family of Kingston. Greg Thornton said he thought Sunday’s weather was “perfect” for outdoor fun.

“We saw all the outdoor activities [and] we knew the kids would love it,” he said. “They’re having a great time. We like to support the community, especially events like this, as much as possible.”

Jessica Nall of DeKalb wanted to get her kids out of the house, so she was happy to bring them to Hopkins Park.

“They need to get outside and do something fun instead of being cooped up inside,” she said. “This is something different. The kids love the crafts and interacting with all the other people here.”

This was the first year that Polarpalooza was held at Hopkins Park. In previous years, it was held at Lions Park, and DeKalb Park District superintendent of recreation Bill Ryder said Hopkins was a better location.

“You’ve got everything here – we have the space, and it’s more visible,” he said. “This event is a good alternative to just staying inside. It’s good for people to get outside any chance they get.”

DeKalb park board President Phil Young also said Hopkins is an ideal location for Polarpalooza because there is a lot more space for people to hike and cross-country ski.

“Some of our facilities don’t get utilized as much during the cold weather, and we can show off the different activities available here in the winter,” Young said. “The ice rink is bigger, and we have a large indoor heated area. This is a great way to get some fresh air or go hiking and biking.”

Maria Franco’s daughter, Brianna, was looking forward to Polarpalooza because she wanted to try ice skating.

“We always come to community activities because it’s nice to spend time with the kids. It’s a good way to keep them involved with the community, and I wanted to get outside,” Maria Franco said.

Even though she enjoyed the outdoor activities, Amelie Grada Romero, 10, of DeKalb said her favorite part of the day was making crafts, including a bird feeder that she was planning to hang on a tree in her yard.

“There are a lot of fun things to do in the snow, like skiing and sledding, but I like the crafts the best,” the Jefferson Elementary School fourth-grader said.

The Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association sponsored an outdoor scavenger hunt, in which participants had to use clues to find nine locations around the park to win a prize.

Stacy Veldhuizen, therapeutic recreation program coordinator, said her organization, which works to provide inclusion services for individuals with disabilities, likes to partner with park districts on events such as Polarpalooza.

“It’s great to see all the families and community members coming out and using the park,” Veldhuizen said. “They need to know that you can get outside in the winter. The snow is not an excuse to not play outside.”

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