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Winter fun

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The fireworks that dazzled the clear and bitter cold sky New Year’s Eve symbolized a resurgence of Watertown’s Parks and Recreation Department and the resurrection of the Snowtown USA festival from its long wintery slumber.

Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin E. Gardner and program manager Celia E. Cook have proven to cynical city taxpayers that a recreation department can do so much more than fail to bill a dwindling list of facility users and oversee a department that provided fewer and fewer services.

Snowtown’s fireworks attracted a very large crowd of families to the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds where youngsters who seemed immune to the frigid chill of a north wind cavorted on the ice-covered snow piles. The colors of the aerial explosions were especially vivid in the clear winter sky.

Despite the north winds and extremely cold artic air, Snowtown delighted visitors and residents. Some events had to be moved inside; some were postponed when the temperature rose from below zero to freezing.

The snow sculpture contest outside was cancelled. But inside the Watertown Municipal Arena, an obstacle course on ice attracted plenty of fun-seekers while others played broomball or ice skated. The ugly sweater contest drew 150 skaters to the arena, and Thursday night’s karaoke night at Maggie’s drew an enthusiastic crowd.

“It’s great for building community,” Shaun H. Cunningham, a music teacher at Ohio Elementary School and H.T. Wiley Intermediate School, told Watertown Daily Times reporter Jacob Pucci after performing his second song of the evening. “It allows people to interact with other people that they may not have otherwise.”

Event after event extended through the weekend to be followed by a display of snow sculptures on Public Square as long as the cold weather holds.

Snowtown, which has been dormant since 1997, has provided an outlet for those house-bound by the cold. But even better, it caps a successful year for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Under the vigorous leadership of Ms. Garner and Ms. Cook, residents have been treated to nearly continuous organized summer and winter activities. A new sense of enthusiasm permeates the Parks and Recreation Department. Last January, it opened an outdoor ice rink at the park, sponsored indoor broomball games on the ice at the fairgrounds, and presented outdoor movies and summer programs for adults and children while re-engineering use of the fairgrounds to better accommodate large-scale concerts and professional hockey.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department shows what city staff members dedicated to serving the public interest can accomplish. This winter will be easier now with the memories of Snowtown USA and the anticipation of a summer filled with special city-sponsored activities.

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