Seven-year-old Carissa Caddell bounced in an indoor jumpy house, displayed her acrobatic skills in a gymnastics room and was debating her next move, all within an hour of arriving at the Second Sunday Family Fun Series at the Rohnert Park Community Center.
The Rohnert Park first-grader was having loads of fun at the free community-building event, a themed afternoon of live music and activities hosted monthly throughout the school year by the City of Rohnert Park’s Community Services Department.
Carissa and her parents, Raquel Brandolino and John Caddell, plan a family outing whenever the series is offered.
“We missed the first one, but we’ve been to every one since then,” said Carissa’s dad. “She just loves to hang out and meet up with lots of other kids. I think it’s perfect. A lot of these kids don’t have money to do things.”
The series was introduced in September as a way to continue enjoyable activities into the school year. The city offers its popular Party on the Plaza concert series during the summer, with live music now provided during the Second Sunday program.
“The intent was to create a community event anybody could attend, and to reach all audiences,” said Cindy Bagley, the city’s community services manager. “Rohnert Park is a very tight-knit community, and we’re building that community and giving Rohnert Park that heart.”
She and her team of seven to 10 community services employees plan monthly themes and activities with all ages in mind. Last week’s “Winter Wonderland” included live rock and blues music by Kingsborough, holiday crafts, games, a jump house, kiddie Christmas videos, gymnastics with instructor Gary Friedman and a community art project, all at no charge.
Extras can be purchased, like face painting and henna tattoos with Jennifer Hayes of Temporary Fixations, or lunch items including burgers and pulled pork sandwiches made to order by Keith’s BBQ Beast.
The local Rotary Club sells beverages to raise funds for community projects. Last week’s offerings included hot chocolate for $1 and Mimosas and Snugglers (hot chocolate with Schnapps) for $5.
Rohnert Park Animal Services was on hand, too, with a trio of pets awaiting adoption — a pair of black kittens named Popeye and Tugboat and a white New Zealand rabbit named Snowflake.
City employee Jerome Mancilla came with his family from Santa Rosa to support the program and enjoy an outing together. Daughter Adriana, 11, and sons Antonio, 9, and Mateo, 2, were enthusiastic about the festivities.
“It seems cool and fun,” declared Adriana, a sixth-grader.
She and Antonio, a fourth-grader, watched attentively as Hayes painted a Spider-Man design on their little brother’s face, but were anxious to head over to the Kids’ Zone for holiday arts and crafts.
Their mother, Angelina Hernandez, was grateful for a free outing the entire family could enjoy.
“We wanted to try it out,” she said. “The kids like to come out and get to know the community.”
They weren’t disappointed. Adriana and Antonio enjoyed the crafts table, where offerings including the chance to make a snowman from cotton balls, pompoms and stickers; a holiday wreath from construction paper and paper plates; and a reindeer crown complete with paper antlers.
Crystal Lemarquand of Rohnert Park was visiting the Kids’ Zone with her children, Jackson, 2, and Claire, 4. This was the family’s second visit to the series, and they hope to continue coming.
“I like that it’s something the city offers for kids to do,” Lemarquand said. “I’d like to see more activities for kids. This is one thing we can come to and show our support.”
Bagley said more people are discovering the series, with average attendance of 200 to 300 growing monthly. Feedback has been positive, she said, with comments like “awesome” and “amazing” repeatedly used to describe the event.
Bagley and her staff book Sonoma County bands each month, but keep activities unique. Visitors have found everything from an indoor obstacle course and a jump house waterslide to a 6-foot soccer ball and a live streaming of the San Francisco 49ers game on opening day of the NFL season.
Musicians have included 1980s hair metal cover band Aqua Nett, pop-rock-funk band Frobeck and country singer-songwriter McKenna Faith.
Parents can hang out in the Kids’ Zone with their children or check kids in and then enjoy the concerts while kids play under staff supervision.
Bagley is hopeful the Second Sunday Family Fun Series will continue next school year. Financed by the city’s general fund, the program has had full support from the city manager and the city council, Bagley said.
“We want to give people a reason to stay in town,” she said, “and a reason to be proud of their town.”
The next Second Sunday Family Fun Series, with the theme “New Year, New You,” will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Rohnert Park Community Center, 5401 Snyder Lane. Americana-country singer Danny Click will perform. Admission is free.
The series continues through May. The public is welcome. For more information, call 707-588-3456 or visit rpcity.org/secondsunday.
Contact Towns Correspondent Dianne Reber Hart at email@example.com