The early evening sky Saturday was cloudy as volunteers began to get Norris Park ready for the first film of the 2014 Movies in the Park season, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.” The movie can’t be shown until after dark, but people began claiming their spots as early as 6 p.m.
Since 2011, Tahlequah Main Street Association has provided free showings of new and classic movies on a giant inflatable screen in downtown Tahlequah. The season runs from May to September, and nine films are scheduled this year.
Volunteers, such as Joe Knight, haul the screen from the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and handle the set up of it and the sound equipment, as members of the community lay out blankets on the lawn.
Knight, a TMSA board member, has been attending Movies in the Park with his family since moving to Tahlequah.
“I came to Movies in the Park before becoming a TMSA board member and enjoyed the event,” said Knight. “It made me want to get involved in the community. This is an opportunity for me to volunteer, but still have a good time with my family.”
Knight is also the general manager of Tahlequah Cable TV, one of the sponsors of Movies in the Park. He and his company usually give away DVDs of the movie being shown, and stage related promotions. One way to win a DVD or prize is by being part of a dance-off just preceding showtime. Usually, it involves kids.
One girl who won a prize Saturday was Aveah Eli Marie Gifford. Aveah is 5 and loves dancing.
“I won a DVD last year,” said Aveah. “I like playing at the park and laying down on covers to watch the movie.”
This was the first time Aveah’s grandmother, Penny Gifford, had been to Movies in the Park. Her daughter brought the children last year. She said the experience reminded her of going to drive-in movies, and she thinks the event is great for families and the community.
“It’s so expensive to take a family to the movies,” Gifford said. “This is a good thing Tahlequah does for the community. It gives back to the children and families.”
Gifford was there with Jyme Lowe, a co-worker from Help-In-Crisis. Lowe also agreed it is good for the community.
“We usually come every summer,” said Lowe. “It’s a safe, outdoor event to come to. The kids see that everyone comes together, that we all are Tahlequah.”
Many do view Movies in the Park as a positive event, but one reoccurring issue posed a problem last season: unsupervised tweens and teens.
Groups of them start gathering at the park early in the evening and never sit to watch the movies, and other attendees say these youngsters tend to be rude, loud, and disruptive.
Chief of Police Nate King said the young people are not violating curfew, but they can be picked up as “a child in need of supervision.” One boy was detained Saturday and his parents were called.
“We want everyone to enjoy the event, because it is a great time,” said King. “Tahlequah police officers will be doing foot patrol during the movies. If unsupervised children are loitering and being disruptive, we will remove them. We will not file charges on them, but they will be held until a guardian picks them up.”
The groups of children not there to settle down and watch the movie, was a topic brought up by Knight.
“Parents should be more involved and come with the kids,” said Knight. “It’s a good opportunity for families. Kids shouldn’t just be dropped off.”
TMSA did implement “rules” at the end of last season, one of which stated that children under age 18 had to have guardians with them. Nothing official has been released this season.
Arvest Bank has started an employee committee for community outreach, and members will work as crowd patrol during the movies.
One change for this season is that TMSA is not operating concessions.
“We want the community to support the local stores,” said Drew Haley, TMSA director. “Sweet Tooth Ice Cream and Candy Shoppe has popcorn for sale. And nonprofit organizations can contact us if they wish to set up a table or booth.”
And though this first night of Movies in the Park ended up being chilly, Fire N Ice Snowcones, the familiar yellow truck run by Dana Payne and family, was parked so folks could still get a snowcone – hopefully, to eat with an extra blanket for warmth.
The next movie will be “Monster’s University” Saturday, May 31. Those interested in setting up a table for a nonprofit organization, or to become an event sponsor, should contact TMSA at (918) 431-1655.
For a schedule of the 2014 Movies in the Park, visit www.tahlequahdailypress.com.
Photos from this season will be available at www.tahlequahdailypress.com/photos.