Almost 500 Gladstone residents braved chilly temperatures May 20 to honor area veterans during a ceremony in the town’s main square while children enjoyed outdoor exercise with their families.
The sound of drums, a UH-1N Huey helicopter, and children decked in military gear waving American flags filled Linden Square in downtown Gladstone during the commemoration for Armed Forces Day.
“It’s a wonderful way to honor and to recognize and celebrate veterans past and present and also to recognize their families, because the families have to make many sacrifices,” said Gladstone Mayor R.D. Mallams. “It’s a way for the city of Gladstone to say, ‘Thank you.’”
This year marked the event’s fourth year.
Organizers also incorporated Kids to Parks Day to this year’s event. Kids to Parks Day is organized by National Park Trust to encourage outdoor play among children across the nation.
“We are trying to celebrate getting kids outdoors to stay fit, be active and get away from the computers,” said Gladstone Recreation Supervisor Susan Blattner.
According to National Park Trust, more than 1,700 U.S. parks participated in Kids to Parks Day 2017 and up to 1 million people turned out.
Blattner said the day’s events also provided an opportunity for residents to enjoy family activities free of charge while getting to know the community in which they live.
Gladstone resident Suzanne Sulzer brought her son, Bryson Franklin, 5, to honor his father who is serving in the Middle East.
“We thought it would be a good idea to come out here and just honor the members of our military for serving,” Sulzer said.
Activities included Frisbee, a bouncy house and bow blast — a game played with up to four teams that organizers described as a mix of dodge ball, paintball and archery. The sport requires the use of a mask and an arrow with a rubber ball at the end.
Northland native and owner of Bow Blast KC Jason McCarthy, 37, volunteered his time with his friend, Jason Georgeulakos, to share their enthusiasm for the sport with area children.
“We love volunteering,” McCarthy said. “We just want to give back to the city.”
Georgeulakos said it’s a great opportunity to get kids off their phones and tablets. “They are waiting for us to explore and have fun.”
Gladstone resident Amy Bratton heard about the event through the Gladstone Community Center and decided to bring her four children to celebrate her daughter’s birthday.
“It keeps them entertained,” Bratton said of the outdoor celebration. “No more digital devices. And it gets them socialized.”
Bratton’s son, Michael, 15, said he appreciated the opportunity to head outside and learn a new sport with his family.
“Video games I get bored at,” Michael said. “Just staying at home and inside… I’m tired of it. I like to do something new.”
Blattner said Gladstone will participate in Kids to Parks Day in coming years.