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Parks Dept. raises $$$ for Flushing Meadows

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Children’s laughter and cackles of joy could be heard around the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on a beautiful but cool Sunday spring afternoon.

The youngsters roller-bladed, skate-boarded and ran around the Unisphere as their parents quietly watched them enjoy the park and the Flushing Meadows Corona Park’s annual “You Gotta Have Park” fair. The weekend event, in its 10th year, is the Parks Department’s biggest fund-raiser for Queens’ largest park.

Originally scheduled to take place both Saturday and Sunday, the event was canceled the first day because the park flooded as a result of heavy rain, but a crystal blue sky Sunday enticed thousands out of their homes to enjoy the day and the event.

“It would have been much better if it had not rained yesterday,” said Estelle Cooper, assistant commissioner of Queens Parks. “I think we would have had more people come out today.”

Even so, Cooper said, she expected between 10,000 and 15,000 people to use the park Sunday. In addition to the park’s main event, there was a program being held at the petting zoo and a Buddhist organization held a kids’ day, which had been rained out last week.

This year’s fund-raising program, Cooper said, was different from previous years because the Parks Department’s themed “Health and Safety Awareness Through Your Community Park” focused on providing information on health care and offering sports clinics to help children with their skills.

She said she was also giving out 500 tickets to a New York Mets game and T-shirts donated by the baseball team to anybody who bring a bag of litter they had picked up from around the park.

“People seem to be enjoying it,” Cooper said. “It was smaller in years past and will be even bigger next year.”

Some of the sponsors participating in “You Gotta Have Park” were The Mets, New York Rangers, MetroStars, New York Power, Turkey Hill ice cream, Time Warner Cable, Verizon Communications, Con Edison and Power 105.

“This year we wanted to make it a family event,” said Noel Kopa, director of public relations for Queens Parks. “In past years it was more of a fund-raiser with only a few booths.”

Holding large events, she pointed out, helps to bring out people, but the focus of the day was children. She said there were all sorts of games for kids like a pitch-and-putt booth, a hockey net where kids could work on their shots and various bean bag tosses.

“There are so many venues in the park people do not know about,” Kopa said. “We are also trying to promote these venues and get people to know the park better.”

Laura Viutrago, who lives in Corona, said she often brings her children to the park because the park provides them with something to do and “it is fun.”

Tae Shim, who lives in Flushing and was enjoying the park for the first time, said he was invited by a friend to come and spend a day at Flushing Meadow Corona Park.

“It is a gorgeous day and it feels great to come out with my kids,” he said. “Next time I am going to come back with my bike.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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