As the Rube Band played Happy Days Are Here Again, a wave of kids rushed under the central feature of a newly opened spray park in North Kamloops, a christening of sorts for the surrounding neighbourhood.
Several hundred people gathered in McDonald Park to celebrate the occasion Friday even though the spray park has been operating for a few days.
For Jim Summers of the Friends of McDonald Park, the new attraction is another step forward for a neighbourhood he’s seen evolve over 65 years.
“It’s changed totally,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of young families in the neighbourhood. It’s great to see. It’s perfect.”
With a group of children, scissors at the ready, Mayor Peter Milobar joined MLA Terry Lake and North Shore Business Improvement Association manager Stephen Puhallo to snip a ceremonial ribbon making the occasion.
There are now four water parks in the city — at Riverside, McGowan and Westsyde Centennial parks — but only McDonald Park has a giant fiery ball that dumps a big bucket full of cool fun on kids.
The new amenity was brought on stream in short order thanks to efforts by City staff and the contractor, Milobar said.
“This all came together in about two-and-a-half months,” the mayor said.
While he noted that the addition came after the difficult decision to demolish an aging swimming pool — a fixture of the neighbourhood for 58 years — no one was shedding tears Friday. To the contrary, the park was filled with smiles and gaggles of laughter.
“You have a mini Riverside Park here,” Milobar told the kids. “You have all the features of Riverside Park.”
Lake recalled gathering at nearby Parkside Place 13 years ago to consider a design charrette for park improvements, a project central to revitalization of the neighbourhood. Summers said it was then mayor Mel Rothenburger who got the ball rolling on the project.
Summers recalled spending a lot of time in the same spot in the 1950s and early ’60s.
“Big time,” he said. “I was just a young kid. Mrs. Hall was the swimming coach for years. And they used to pump water directly out of the river.”
Movie nights in the park begin Saturday, July 23, with a showing of Zootopia. The next big even in the park is Overlander Days, Aug. 20.