‘Movies in the Park’ cultivates community and fun

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Erin Kee

Attendees set up their own blankets and chairs in preparation for the movie.

The San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Department concluded their “Movies in the Park” with the new Disney movie, “Cruella,” as summer came to a close. 

On Sept. 24, the showing of “Cruella” in Central Park was the fourth and last of the free “Movies in the Park” events each Friday in September. The previous showings were “Onward,” “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and “Boss Baby: Family Business.” 

“We try to hit four different parks within the different areas of San Mateo so that it gives everyone access to coming to at least one of them,” said Christine Peralta, the San Mateo Parks and Recreation Department’s outreach supervisor. 

Peralta also shares how they put the event together. 

“We have a contractor for the screen and the audio. We reached out to other partnerships. We have a restaurant here, Fletch’s, selling food. We have a public library here with their van and our Mobile recreation van,” Peralta said. “It’s all different departments and sections of the city coming together to put on this event.”

With food and drinks, a mobile library, arts and crafts, and other pre-movie activities, many community members were drawn in. One such attendee was Lena Kazankov, who came with her family. 

“I have kids, and they just enjoy spending time together as a family. We went to the mobile library section, and they liked the drawing activities and the play-doh,” Kazankov said. 

Another attendee, Vanessa Romano, came with her family and went to the “Movies in the Parks” before. 

“I think it’s good for the community to have an activity that brings so many people together. We went to a couple of the past movies on Fridays at the different park locations,” Romano said. 

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, which lasted for more than a year, many could not do activities like going to the movie theater. The outdoor option for watching movies made a safe and comfortable environment for the community. 

“We haven’t gone to the movies since last year, and I don’t feel comfortable going to the movies inside. So, I think this is a great option,” Kazankov said. 

The San Mateo Parks and Recreation Department has been trying to find ways to host safe and fun community events.

“We’ve struggled a lot the past year trying to figure out how to hold events and programs safely. But we found ways to still hold summer camp and still have classes and programs at our centers,” Peralta said. “We were able to get the committee back out again. Everyone’s been locked up for so long, so this has been so great having so many people come out.”