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Summer Arts, Crafts Program
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Draws Youth Into Park

Activities in the Park are back and proving as popular as ever.

Summer mornings playing board games, making arts and crafts or competing in a team sport are drawing a fair number of children each weekday to Castleberg Park.

The program is free and there is no need to register. Youth who want to participate can just go to the park whenever they want, and stay as long as they want.

Operated at both Castleberg and Community Center parks two years ago, the program was dropped last year for budget reasons, but it is running again this year at Castleberg Park only, said Riverbank Recreation Supervisor Kerrie Webb.

Last week was the first week of operation and the early days at least brought unusually cold, cloudy, even wet weather. Still, 15 to 30 children arrive daily at the park gazebo, said Recreation Assistant Mayra Martinez, who is assisted by Rosario Montanez.

The poor weather cut back on team sports, but board games flourished. This week Martinez and Montanez are planning volleyball and baseball, in addition to balance and memory games, and making key chains and picture frames.

Next week will be 'Fear Factor Week,' with tests of nerve similar to those portrayed on television programs, said Martinez. There will be worms wriggling in mud, for example, even if the worms perhaps turn out to be candy "gummy worms."

The morning games, starting at 10 a.m., run until noon when the crowd gets bigger just in time for lunch.

A free picnic lunch is provided to children 18 years old and under, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Department of Education. This lunch is also distributed at Community Center Park.

Cindy Manzano was playing a board game called Correct Four with her cousin Karen Gonzalez.

"I'd only be watching television if I was home," Manzano said. "This is more fun. There are plenty of things to do. I brought along my brother too. He's eight."

Israel Hernandez, 13, and his sister, Jackie, were building towers made of wooden bricks. This was their first day of activities because their little sister was not well and they had to stay home and look after her the day before.

Martinez pointed out that the numbers at the park activities are affected by summer school location. Two years ago summer school was at nearby California Avenue School. Students came over to Castleberg and lunch right after their classes. But this year, summer school is at Cardozo Middle School, which is located much further away.

Some parents, grandmothers and other relatives come with the children and take part in the games. They just don't get lunch as well.

News Editor John Branch may be contacted at 847-3021 or