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Shortening long days

Things parents and kids can do together make time fly

POSTED May 3, 2012 10:46 p.m.

There are days with young children that stretch out before parents like an ocean.
How do you wade through the day when parent and child alike are tired of the same old, same old? When you can close your eyes and recite every item in the backyard, playroom and bedrooms. When in your heart you know it’s time to turn off the TV, computer, video game, anything with a screen.
What’s a family to do on those days?
In a small community, finding fun, affordable, nearby activities can be challenging. Fortunately, whether a parent stays home with their children every day or is off work for the weekend, school break or holiday, Great Bend offers a wide range of things for parents and children to do together.
Keep your eye on the ball
Walnut Bowl has leagues open to adults and kids all year round or drop-in bowling every day of the week as well as a mini golf course.
Owner Jim Mayberry said he’d like to see more interest from children in bowling.
“We need to start building our kids up,” he said. “Our youth numbers are down a little.”
Lanes are open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Cost per game is $2.75 until 6 p.m., then $3.95 a game after, except on Sundays which is $2.75 all day. The alley also has video games and air hockey.
This summer, the bowling alley is participating in Kids Bowl Free, which offers two free games of bowling every day for kids. Parents can go to and sign up their children and print tickets for free games each week.
“We usually have 500 or 600 sign up,” Mayberry said.
A family plan is also available at a much-reduced rate, Mayberry said. The only additional cost is shoe rental.
A round of mini golf is $4 for ages 16 and older, $3 for ages 5 to 15, and free for under 5.
Shaun Kirmer of Great Bend took his daughter, Keaton, 4, out on a recent Monday afternoon. It was the father-daughter pair’s first golf outing.
“This is our second time through it. She doesn’t want to quit,” Shaun Kirmer said.
Get moving
Lee Ann Bashor began Mommy & Me dance lessons at Dance by Design, 1403 Main St., about four years ago.  
“We love it,” said stay-at-home mother Daphne Stalcup of Great Bend, who brought daughter Averi, 2. “Averi loves music and dancing so this is fantastic.”
Bashor will offer the class again starting in August, with a 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. class weekly, to coincide with either stay at home or working parent schedules.
“We started this year with 10 moms,” Bashor said. “It was mayhem.”
Classes are for children 18 months to 4 years old. They cost $3.50 per class, $12 per month or $45 for a full semester of about 12 weeks.
“It’s funny, it’s silly. It’s a nice way to meet other moms and other kids,” Bashor said.
The Great Bend Recreation Center offers a Mommy & Me swim class for toddlers and swim lessons for older kids. The parent/child class is for ages 6 to 3, and is either 10:30 a.m. or 6 p.m. July 23 to Aug. 2, said Megan Hammeke, aquatics program coordinator. The class lasts 30 minutes.
“We get a lot of grandmothers who babysit or parents who don’t work,” she said. “The water is warmer and the weather is better for the little guys at the end of the summer.”
Classes for older kids can be found in the center’s summer activity guide at the center at 1214 Stone St.
Playgroups and play areas
Mark and Kristine Hermansen of Great Bend stop in Everything Under the Son book store at 407 McKinley several times a week as a family outing with 2-year-old daughter, Sophia.
“It’s a safe place and she gets to play with other kids,” Kristine Hermansen said.
The play area includes soft mats and ramps, a playhouse, toys, books, a Lego table and a TV which shows educational videos or Veggie Tales. It is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
The Great Bend Public Library is a hotbed of parent and child activity opportunities. For starters, its children’s area has toys, Legos, bead mazes and books during library hours noon to 9 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday (hours will change after Memorial Day).
Story times are offered at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday and Friday with weekly themes like cooking, dogs, trucks, the ocean and holidays. After school movies are shown, with today’s being Happy Feet Two at 3:30 p.m. and a Muppets movie marathon scheduled for the summer, said Amanda Moran, assistant children’s librarian.
Moran said there is also a Baby & Me story time Fridays at 9:30 a.m. for up to 18 months.
“Not every parent reads to their infant,” she said. “We want to encourage parents to start reading earlier.”
The library is launching the 2012 Summer Reading Club at 3:30 p.m. June 11. The program, for children birth to sixth grade, includes children getting a library card, signing a contract, making a reading goal (prizes are given when the goal is reached) and turning in a slip for each book read or hour spent reading. The library will host free events and activities throughout the summer.  
Starting in August, Parents as Teachers will hold a monthly playgroup, said parent educator Rosa Velazco. The playgroup will offer a story time, snack, activities and free play from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Washington Early Childhood Center, 2535 Lakin.
Velazco said between seven and 10 parents usually bring children – age birth to 4 years – to the group.
Cool parks
Veterans Memorial Park at 17th Street and McKinley is a very active place. Families can picnic, fish, walk the fitness trail, play sand volleyball or disc golf, or hit the large playground.
“She likes this one real well and I like the water,” said Great Bend resident Rodney Drake of his 5-year-old daughter, Baileigh. “It’s very peaceful out here.”
Brit Spaugh Park on Main Street is home to not only a skate park, horse shoes and playground, but also the always-free Great Bend Zoo & Raptor Center and the Wetlands pool and splash park.
“It’s pretty packed in the summer,” said Zoo Director Scott Gregory.
The zoo boasts 130 animals in about 60 different species, and is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Gregory said the zoo is a great resource for the community.
“There’s lots to do in this little town,” he said.
The Wetlands at Great Bend, a pool and water park located by the zoo, opens for the season May 26 and offers eight slides, spray features, tipping bucket, swimming pool with divided shallow end and Water Wars. It is open seven days a week from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m., and for family nights Tuesday and Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m.
“Any age can go there,” said Terry Hoff, City human resources director and interim director of public lands. “There’s an area for the little ones.”
Cost is $2.50 for ages 3 to 17 and $3.50 for adults. Hoff said many people make a day of the park, zoo and pool.
“We have a lot of people who go to the zoo in the morning and the pool in the afternoon,” he said. “It’s very, very nice.”

Other things to do in Great Bend:

· Great Bend Recreation Center, 1214 Stone St., has activity guides with events ranging from tractor viewing to cooking to painting.
· Go out for ice cream.
· Try out new toys at Wal-Mart’s toy section or see check out the Salvation Army thrift store at 2425 10th St. or Goodwill at 1705 Main St.
· Stop by Stone Lake at Washington Street and Railroad Avenue to see a marsh area at the southeast end, a row of train cars at the north end or let the kids dig with cups and scoops from home in the sandy areas.
· Visit the prairie dog city behind Great Wall Restaurant at 4705 10th St.
· For more domesticated animals, everything from chinchillas and fish, to tarantulas, birds and rabbits is at That Critter Place, 1901 Main St.
· Fish at either Stone Lake or Veterans Memorial Park, 17th Street and McKinley.
· Walk or stroll around the Veterans Memorial Park fitness trail.
· Go to a museum at Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village, 85 S. Hwy. 281 or Kansas Oil and Gas Hall of Fame and Museum, 5944 W. 10th St.
· Take in a race at S.C.R.A. Drag Strip at 455 W. Barton County Road, website -
· Play horseshoes or let the kids skateboard at Brit Spaugh Park, 2303 Main St., or play sand volleyball at Veterans Memorial Park.
· Playgrounds are found at Brit Spaugh Park, Veterans Memorial Park, Eisenhower Park at Lakin and Garfield, and Heizer Park and 8th Street and Heizer.
· Check the chamber of commerce and visitors bureau seasonal events calendars at or
· Call the fire department for a tour: Station 1 - 793-4140, Station 2 - 793-4144
· Ice skating at Jack Kilby Square by the courthouse in downtown Great Bend, open seasonally from November to February, with free skate rental 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, noon to 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.
· See a movie at Village Cinemas, 4805 10th St. Call 793-8335 for summer movies.


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