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Weather Or Not, Here They Come Approaching Storm Clouds Can’t Dampen Spirits At Kiwanis Family Day

A parade of children - some marching, some riding in red Radio Flyer wagons, others in strollers - advanced down Sherman Avenue on Saturday morning toward City Park.

They could have picked up the pace as far as Ashley, 5, and Tiffany Davis, 2, were concerned.

They fidgeted on park benches near Independence Point while they waited for the parade. A day earlier, the sisters had checked out the new Fort Sherman Playground, and they were anxious to play there again.

“I liked it,” Tiffany said.

They had to wait until the parade was over and the new Fort Sherman Playground was dedicated during the fifth annual Kiwanis Family Day in the park.

At the entrance to the elaborate playground stood khaki-clad Kiwanian Scott Nass, who good-naturedly kept a gaggle of anxious children at bay.

“Easy now, easy now,” he said. “No pushing. Stay on the grass.”

Mayor Al Hassell gave brief remarks and then pointed out, “It would be detrimental to get in the way of this group trying to get to the playground.”

As he cut one of several construction paper chains strung across the entrance to the playground, he prompted the pack with, “Ready? Go!”

No one was trampled by the torrent of tiny bodies tearing through the paper chains to the swings, rings, jungle gyms, sandbox and mazelike structures in the fort.

Bliss Bignall leaned against a railing and watched his dream in live action.

“I almost feel like it was worth it,” he said, laughing.

Bignall is the Kiwanis member who brought the idea of the playground to Coeur d’Alene. He’d seen a similar one in Sandy, Ore., while visiting his brother.

Bignall was also in charge of fund raising for the $115,000 project that took 1,000 volunteers to build in five days. His job isn’t quite over, and he asks that donations be sent to Idaho Panhandle Kiwanis Club, P.O. Box 426 in Coeur d’Alene.

“He knows how to get money, he does,” said Kiwanis Stephen Gregory, who was taking photos of the dedication.

“He was after everybody,” added Annd Andreason.

She and husband Ray Andreason operate the paddle boat rental business on the commercial dock. Some of their out-of-town customers said they came to Coeur d’Alene to check out the playground - which opened May 18.

“This is going to be the biggest draw next to the (Coeur d’Alene) Resort,” Bignall said.

But the playground was only one attraction for the toddler to preteen crowd at Family Day.

The event dawned with blue skies and warm temperatures, inviting children to visit the beachside park, eat hot dogs, try their biking skills in a bike rodeo and visit a petting zoo with camels, goats, bunnies and sheep.

Kiwanis members said they believed the crowd was the biggest ever. More than 1,500 hot dogs were sold, and children had to wait in line at most of the attractions. Organizer Howard Martinson guessed more than 1,000 children attended this year’s event.

The fun was cut short, however, when a tornado watch was dispatched over police and sheriff’s radios.

Officers at the park warned organizers of the approaching storm at 1 p.m., and by 2 police were evacuating the park.

As menacing black clouds loomed over Coeur d’Alene, the park emptied. The petting zoo was safely inside an oversize horse trailer, and the concessions booth was nearly packed up.

Parents tucked their toddlers into child seats, threw the bikes in the trunk, and a steady stream of traffic left downtown.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo