BG Hamrick: Hello and welcome to this week’s Local Impact Podcast. Today we’re very excited to have a special guest with us from right in our backyard in Putnam County where this podcast is created. Lauren Patrick is with us today. Lauren is the Recreation Superintendent at the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation Department. So, a little bit about Lauren, and then I’ll let her introduce herself as well and talk to you more about what’s going on today. Lauren is a 2014 graduate of Marshall University. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resource and Recreation Management. Lauren heads up as we mentioned the Recreational Programming at the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation. She is very passionate about the field of parks and recreation and is committed (and I love this part) to helping provide children everywhere with the resources they need to get out and play. Amen. I love that. In her spare time, Lauren can be found spending time with her husband Cody, tending to her two elderly dachshunds Riley and Layla, her wild Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Wallace, and three cats P.J., Deku, and her rescue cat Boo Boo Kitty. What a great bio!
Lauren, welcome to the podcast. That’s a fun bio to read! Appreciate you being here!
Lauren Patrick: Thanks. Thanks for having me!
BG Hamrick: Absolutely. I don’t know if I got all the fur baby names right, but that’s really, really cool. Okay great, so the Parks and Recreation – you know, some people are familiar with the TV sitcom. Whitney had a question, I think we talked about before the podcast, is your life like who’s the character there? Leslie.
Lauren Patrick: Oh, I can only aspire to be like Leslie Knope. Yeah, I’m a huge fan of the show myself, so.
BG Hamrick: Yes! That’s cool. Yeah, that’s the – that might be the main way people can view a position like yours and what you’re doing. But, it’s obviously a very important role, and we’re so glad to have you with us.
So, tell us a little bit about you, Lauren. Let us know a little bit about how you got to the Parks and Recreation. I read your bio of course we know your degree, but let’s talk about how you got to that position, and what it’s like in the day-to-day life of your role at the parks.
Lauren Patrick: Oh, well, it’s always interesting. Every day is different. That’s something that I love about it. I actually started with the Park District officially in 2015 as a Recreation Programmer and I’ve kind of worked my way up. I’ve been very fortunate; I’ve helped with grant writing and fundraising. I did that for a couple years and while still doing you know half and half some recreation. And, now, I’m lucky to be able to do mostly all recreation – all the fun stuff. I get to have a lot of fun.
BG Hamrick: Sounds great!
Lauren Patrick: All the events and activities, that’s stuff that I get to program.
BG Hamrick: Okay awesome! So, for those who don’t know, what is the primary goal or the primary role of a Parks and Recreation Department? What do they do?
Lauren Patrick: Well, we have over 16 parks and four cemeteries that we maintain. So, we have lots of parks that people don’t even know about. Our goal is you know to provide recreation and open space for the community, give folks something to do and good places to recreate.
BG Hamrick: Awesome. Well, with us on the podcast today is Whitney Barnhart. Whitney has been co-hosting the last couple of podcasts that we’ve had. I’m looking forward to more time with her on the podcast as she shares her perspective, and we get some fun banter going between us. So, Whitney has a few questions I think to reach out and ask you about as well. And there’s an event I know particularly this summer that she’s going to be interested in asking you about as well, so Whitney whenever you’re ready!
Whitney Barnhart: Yeah again, Lauren thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate you making time for us.
Lauren Patrick: Thanks for having me.
Whitney Barnhart: Yeah, I just wanted to – like you just said – you have a lot of parks in the greater Huntington area. 16 I think you said. So, personally, which one is your favorite park?
Lauren Patrick: Oh, gosh, that’s tough. Probably Saint Cloud Commons just because we have recently put in an all-inclusive playground there that meets the needs of the whole community. Children and adults with all scopes of abilities, so it’s perfect for everybody. Accessible, but it goes beyond being accessible and is really inclusive. I had a huge part in fundraising for that; it was an over a million-dollar project, and we’re just getting ready to have a grand opening for an all-inclusive pad there as well that’ll be open this summer. So, that park has just a special place in my heart.
Whitney Barnhart: That’s awesome! I love that; that’s such a great story! And, obviously, there’s 15 others. Which ones do you think people should really – maybe people don’t know about or maybe haven’t heard of before – put on their list to check out when the weather starts getting warmer?
Lauren Patrick: When people talk to me, they all talk about Ritter Park, and sometimes people think Ritter Park is the only park that we have. And Ritter Park’s great. It’s beautiful. It’s our flagship park, but we actually have a lot of other parks as well. Several neighborhood parks. I was fortunate to be able to do Easter egg hunts in several of them this season because we couldn’t have so many people in one place based on the state regulations, so we moved around from our neighborhood park. That was a great experience. We have a farm-themed park at Harvey Town like towards the West End, and it’s super fun. It’s like a big barn and it’s got a fan pit with stone pigs, and people love it!
We’ve got a lot of just those little pocket parks that are just really cool. McClellan Park is down past St. Mary’s. Right around St. Mary’s Hospital, and it is like boat-themed because it sits right on the river. There’s swings – like gliding swings – you can sit and you know it’s nice and relaxing for adults and kids. So, lots of those little neighborhood parks I would encourage people to check out. They’re usually less crowded, and it’s just something different.
Whitney Barnhart: Awesome. That’s so cool! I didn’t know that the parks had themes. That’s awesome. Can’t wait to go check those out.
So, I also saw that you have memorials and donation programs that you guys – like buy a brick – things like that. Can you tell us more about those programs that you have?
Lauren Patrick: Well, personally, I don’t handle any of those programs. I am somewhat familiar with them. Our Office Manager typically takes care of those, but right now I do know that you can purchase a brick in memory of someone or just as a gift or however you want to do it for the rose garden which is in Ritter Park. And, I know that that is $75. I do know that. Okay, and then we also have benches that are available for purchase that you can put a plaque on a bench for dedication and plant trees and things like that as well. And, you can definitely contact our main office for more information on the specifics of that.
Whitney Barnhart: I love that! Okay! And then, we’ve got events coming up! I saw on your Facebook that you have the Mother-Daughter Pajama Party Freaky Friday Movie Night Mother’s Day thing coming up. So, can you tell us about that?
Lauren Patrick: So, one of the fun things is: I find myself getting to enjoy my childhood favorites again – bring things back. Doing this type of stuff, and we’ve been wanting to throw some type of mother-daughter event for a while. And, when I say that, I mean mother figure. You can bring, you know, your big sister, your aunt, your stepmom, you know, it’s not – it doesn’t have to be, you know, your biological mother. But just to have a good time. It was one of the things that we planned last year and, unfortunately, canceled all of our summer programming, but we’re hosting a Pajama Party at Camp Matt Anthony Wayne – which is one another one of our parks that has a big lodge, and in the past boy scouts girl scouts lots of groups rent the lodge. It’s a place where you can stay overnight and things like that. We’re not staying overnight, but we’re going to be there for a while, and we’re going to wear our pajamas, and we’re going to watch Freaky Friday which is classic I think. It’s a good mother-daughter funny fun film. We’re going to make crafts and have snacks and just kind of like have a good little bonding time. We’re trying to tie that in with Mother’s Day which is next month, so I’m really excited about that.
Whitney Barnhart: Great! And when is that coming up?
Lauren Patrick: So it is on May 14th, and we are selling tickets in advance. They all have to be purchased online, and each couple is $20, but there’s no charge for additional daughters, so really you’re just paying for the mom/mother figure, and she’s bringing however many gals she wants to.
Whitney Barnhart: Awesome! And tickets can be purchased on your website or through your Facebook? What’s the best way to get those?
Lauren Patrick: Both. You can get them on the event page on Facebook or you can visit ghprd.org and there’s a link there as well.
Whitney Barnhart: That’s so exciting! That sounds like so much fun. I know that everyone’s always like, “Oh there’s nothing to do in West Virginia, but like there really is some really cool, fun things if you know where to look. So, hopefully, a lot of people get to come out and spend the weekend with their mom doing that! What else do you guys have coming up this summer?
Lauren Patrick: Well actually the next day on May 15 we’re hosting Kids to Parks Day which is – it’s actually a national day which the aim is to get kids outside and in parks and things. And, we’ve celebrated it for several years and this year we’re hosting at April Dawn Park which also people don’t really know about. It’s in Milton. It’s kind of strange because we have most of our parks in the Huntington area, but we do have a park in Milton, and that’s where we’re going. April Dawn Park is beautiful. It has a spray ground and playgrounds and beautiful shelters, but we’re going to be hosting a day of just kids free fun. We’re going to have giant lawn games and a dunking booth. We’re cooking out and giving everybody free food. It’s just time for unstructured play is what we’re aiming for, and to get the community together. And, after not being able to do that for a while, I’m super excited to just you know be able to safely put this on this year. And so that’ll be from I think it’s 11 to 2. And that’s on Saturday, May 15th at April Dawn Park.
Whitney Barnhart: That’s awesome. That sounds like fun, too. I want to come play! Is it for kids at heart, too?
Lauren Patrick: Oh yeah! Everybody!
BG Hamrick: Great, great. Well, we’ll come spend the day there and do that. That sounds fun. Before we got on the podcast today, Lauren you alluded to an event later in the summer, and I’m sure Whitney was going to ask you about this, but this was interesting. Whitney has been you know involved in the arts for a long time. She’s you know very interested in acting and she does a lot of media and she is you know really loves that part of performance and she’s been a dancer, so I know there’s some theater things happening this summer, and I just thought I’d jump in and tell you why this is going to be an important answer for our co-host Whitney, and for others who maybe have a passion for theater. Which I know a lot there’s a community in Putnam County that’s you know that really really loves that, so what’s that about? And tell us more about how we can be involved in that and when it happens.
Lauren Patrick: So, the Greater Huntington Department Recreation District has a theater group that works kind of with us. We all work together. It’s called Huntington Area Regional Theater or Hart in the Park, and we do outdoor theater in the Ritter Park amphitheater. Usually the summer – the months of June and July and the summer (of course again last year we didn’t get to have it) but this year we’re excited to be bringing it back. We’re not sure about the July show, yet what our plans are for July but we are definitely doing the Addams Family in June, and we’re excited about that. And that’ll be I think it’s like it’s exactly the last three weekends in June, so not the first weekend but the last three Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The gates typically open at six, I think. We sell tickets up at the amphitheater, and it’s just a really good time. We actually open the show with a children’s pre-show which is you get to see the little kids getting their foot in the door with acting. That’s going to be 101 Dalmatians, and every time we do a Disney show it’s like a huge hit. So we’re excited about that.
BG Hamrick: No doubt.
Lauren Patrick: With a creepy vibe, we’re going into the Addams Family’s Musical. And likely we will have another show in July; we just don’t have the details on that yet. We’re still ironing out some things before we can announce.
Whitney Barnhart: That’s awesome; that’s exciting!
BG Hamrick: Yes indeed it is. I think that – I love what Whitney said a few minutes ago people wonder what’s available to do, and you know and sometimes it’s just not prevalent. I think it’s just not easy to find sometimes the information of what’s going on when there’s so much happening. And that’s why we’re on this podcast. We hope we can be a resource for people to find out these things that are going on that sometimes just don’t get out to the public as well as they should have. So what a great opportunity! I want to be involved in that. I’d love to see the kids doing the Dalmatians, and I’d love all that. That would be just so much fun to watch and be a part of. I appreciate what you do, Lauren, for your community and for you know the community surrounding the Huntington area. I’d like to know how we can stay in touch with these events in a better way? Can we get on a mailing list or follow your Facebook page or where is the best resource to find out what you’re doing and when everything’s finalized to rent spaces to you know reserve parks and that sort of thing? What can we do to learn more and to stay up to date?
Lauren Patrick: So the best place to keep up to date on events and the changing information as far as that goes is our Facebook page which is Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District. We have a pretty good following on there, and we have fun with it. We enjoy showcasing and talking about our stuff on there. We’ll always have the events listed. That’s super up-to-date.
So, as far as reserving facilities and checking out all the parks and amenities that we offer, that’s on our website at ghprd.org.
BG Hamrick: Did we miss anything today that you’d like to cover or talk about? I know we talked about a few items today, and we’d love to have you back if you’re willing to come back and be on the podcast later as we finalize more things. But anything else that you’d like to just tell the community while we have their attention?
Lauren Patrick: Nothing I can think of. We’ve pretty much chatted about everything that I have upcoming set in stone at least.
BG Hamrick: Great well this podcast will drop just in a few days, and we look forward to getting it shared out. We’ll let you know when the podcast hits, so we can share that with you as well. Get you all the links so you can share it out to your community also. And thank you, Lauren, for being on the podcast today. Thank you for being a part of our community, and we want to be a part of your community. Hopefully, we can hold hands together and be able to do a lot of great things to impact people in a better way. Whitney, thanks again for being on here. What a fun time this is going to be for us as we continue this journey and get to learn more about our community. So thank you, dear, for being here with me. Whitney is my daughter so if I talk to her and I’m sort of you know in some sort of loving terms, you’ll know why. She’s my youngest daughter, and I’m very happy and proud of her and what she’s accomplishing. It’s good to have her to be able to do this with me on the podcast, so thanks again. And Lauren, thanks one more time for being with us, and we’ll see you next time on the Local Impact Podcast.
Lauren Patrick: Thank you it’s been a pleasure!