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  • Megann Horstead

Local church becomes Winter Wonderland for children, families

Frankfort resident Kathy Sweeney knows how difficult it was finding free family fun events during the winter while raising children years ago. She said she’s glad that’s becoming part of the past.

“I think that it’s a good thing for people to spend the afternoon playing with the kids,” Sweeney said.

Dubbed as Winter Wonderland Fun Fair —which was held Saturday, Jan. 28 at Lincolnway Christian Church—intends to provide a space to bring the community together.

Highlights at the inaugural event included live music, food, games, jumpies and prizes.

Lincolnway Christian Church Director of Children’s Ministries Greg Knowles said Winter Wonderland is designed to please.

“We want to be able to provide our community with some free fun family events that just get the families together, help our kids to have a fun time, engage them and send them off happy,” he said.

Lincolway Christian Church holds a number of community events regularly, including a Fall Fun Fair and a free Vacation Bible School.

Within the last two years, a survey was sent out to identify community needs and interests.

Though a lot of community events aren’t hosted in New Lenox during the winter, that’s where the church intends to fill the gap, Knowles said.

“Where the need is, that’s where want to meet them,” he said. “As we looked around, we did one [fun fair] in September. It was rainy, so we pulled it inside. It was just as fun inside as it would’ve been outside. So, if we can do it inside, we can do it anytime. As we look around when kids don’t have anything to do, and they’re tired of playing video games in their basement, they could come to a place where you can slide on bouncies, play games and just have a great time.”

Sweeney said though the weather in January isn’t the greatest, she thinks coming out for Winter Wonderland serves as a good way to spend a Saturday morning.

“It’s good to meet your neighbors and in the winter, you don’t always come out to see [them], you just kind of [stay] in the house,” she said. “It’s a good way to get out.”

Shawn Murphy, of New Lenox, was waiting in line for face painting with his three-year-old son, Maddox. He said it’s upsetting to know there aren’t more events in the community, like Winter Wonderland.

“That’s why I think it was really attractive to us to make sure we came today, just so we could see that,” he said.

Murphy said he likes how the event aims to reach children at their level.

“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “He’s just having fun everywhere we go.”

Stacy Simanis, also of New Lenox, shared that sentiment.

“My kids are loving it, and it’s getting them out on a cold Saturday to be nice and active and bounce around and get some energy out,” she said.

Simanis said she likes to keep her children busy and active in the community.

“This is definitely a nice one after the holidays when there’s a lull between things,” she said.

Typically, the church’s summer fun fair garners between 200 and 250 children.

Knowles said they’re hoping to see 300 people turnout for Winter Wonderland.

“We’ve been really pleased to see people enjoying themselves and meeting new people,” Knowles said. “There’s an adult kind of mingle area. … You can just hangout with other grown-ups and have an adult conversations, while your kids are off running around and spinning and twirling and throwing things. That’s one of things that’s really exciting to watch parents connect to other parents, while their kids are off connecting with other kids.”

Knowles, noting that they’re even working out the details for planning another Winter Wonderland at the church, said timing is key.

“The plan is that this will be the annual,” he said. “We would do it every year as fun.”


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