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Billings Park Days ups its game

Children and their parents enjoy games and bounce houses during Billings Park Days last year. Sponsored by the Cooper Elementary School PTA, the fun fair earned $2,000 for the school and entertained 400 children. Submitted photo

Bringing back Billings Park Days did more than entertain last year — it brought out the best in this Superior neighborhood.

"It was awesome, just the camaraderie of the whole thing," said Theresa Plasch, who was born and raised in Billings Park. She said it was even better than the Billings Park Days of the past.

"It’s community members coming out and meeting other community members, neighbors meeting neighbors, that’s what the city needs to get back to," said Keith Kern, who organized the inaugural Billings Park Days with Craig Sutherland.

The turnout was overwhelming — 400 kids participated in the Cooper PTA fun fair, at least 300 spectators lined up to see the Power Wheels demo derby, more than 1,000 people stood six deep to watch the one-block parade on Iowa Avenue and the street was a sea of people during evening musical performances. Kern and Sutherland estimated about 5,000 people enjoyed the inaugural event, including former residents who returned to their hometown for the fun.

"It was amazing how many people traveled up here because they knew it was coming," Kern said.

The shindig earned two thumbs up from Plasch.

"We were down here for both bands and during the day I participated in a lot of it, watching the kids and the people, everyone was having so much fun last year," she said. "I’m glad they brought it back."

This year, Billings Park’s biggest block party has upped its game. They’ve added a Friday night fireworks display choreographed to music, a quirky mouth guard challenge and a few twists that won’t be announced until the event itself, which takes place Aug. 5-6.

"Getting one of these under our belt from last year has really taught us a lot," said Kern, treasurer of the Billings Park Business Association, which is organizing this year’s Billings Park Days. "We took some mental notes and wrote some stuff down what we needed to work on, what our weaknesses were."

They started planning earlier and have received more support from local businesses this year. With they really need to make it a success, Kern said, is volunteers.

"We can put it together, but literally there were some of us who didn’t sleep for a whole, entire weekend," he said. "We were here until 5:30 in the morning cleaning up garbage, turn around getting stuff set up at 7 o’clock."

They’re looking for people willing to help out, from running carnival games for a few hours to helping clean. The purpose of the event is to connect neighbors, promote Billings Park businesses and entertain.

"It’s not about us getting our names out there, it’s about seeing the smiles on people’s faces and the enjoyment and the excitement, the kids having a great time," Kern said.

As the annual celebration grows, the Billings Park Business Association hopes to set aside some of the profits to invest in the community — planting trees, offering a helping hand to families displaced by fire, supporting the memorial garden, building a landmark or some other action.

"Giving back to the community for giving to us," Kern said.

To volunteer, call Sutherland at 715-817-5799 or send a message on the Billings Park Days Facebook page. Information on Billings Park days events, including rummage sales and a free showing of the movie "Inside Out," is also available on the Facebook page.